Friday, August 08, 2008

Kwame Kilpatrick: the cliffs notes

Those of you who live outside Michigan may have seen the headlines that Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is in a bit of hot water. Here's a (relatively) brief summary of what's going on. (For an in-depth treatment, all of the Detroit Free Press's coverage is available here.)

Ages ago (in 2003), there was a rumor of a giant debauched party at the mayor's residence. A huge, Playboy-mansion-esque party. None of these rumors have ever been substantiated, but City police investigated, and Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty realized that the investigators were going to discover that they were having an affair.

So they fired the investigating officers.

The officers sued for wrongful termination. Kilpatrick and Beatty testifed in court that they were not having an affair and that the officers were fired for reasons unrelated to the investigation.

Kilpatrick lost the civil suit, a $6 million judgement.

While Kilpatrick was preparing his appeal, the officers' lawyer discovered text messages, sent on city pagers, demonstrating that Kilpatrick and his chief of staff were indeed having an affair, and thus that they had lied on the stand. Confronted with this information Kilpatrick settled the case, for $9 million (in city money) and arranged to have the messages kept secret.

Eight months ago or so, the Detroit Free Press got their hands on the text messages, and published them, leading to the perjury charges.

Kilpatrick has refused to resign, but he seems to be having trouble living up to the conditions of his bond. His personal travel was restricted, and he was supposed to give 48 hours notice to the court any time he needed to travel on city business.

Yesterday, Kilpatrick had a hearing because the court found out that he had traveled to Windsor on July 23 on city business without notifying the court. The judge found out about it by reading it in the newspaper. Days later. Which means that Kilpatrick not only didn't inform the court ahead of time, he didn't even bother to tell them after he got back.

The infuriating part is that all he would have had to do was make a phone call to the judge to let him know that he needed to make an emergency trip on city business.

Kilpatrick was jailed yesterday on the bond violation for the trip to Windsor, but an appeal judge this morning gave him a new $50,000 full-cash bond with no travel allowed and the requirement that Kilpatrick wear a GPS tether.

On July 24, the day after his trip to Windsor, Kilpatrick shoved a police officer who was attempting to locate and serve a warrant on a friend of Kilpatrick's. This took place at Kilpatrick's sister's house at 4:00pm on a Thursday afternoon. There has never been any explanation of why Kilpatrick was at his sister's house in the middle of the afternon in the middle of the work week.

Today, the Michigan Attorney General charged Kilpatrick with two felony counts of assaulting a cop. Which itself may be a violation of Kilpatrick's bond conditions in the perjury case, and may get him thrown back in jail.

And this is the sitting Mayor!

So the best-case scenario now would be for the governor to remove the mayor, which would leave the rest of us able to focus on the bribery accusations being made against City Council members.

God bless Detroit.


Anonymous said...

I shoved the sheriff, but I did not shove the deputy.

Anonymous said...

For the record he shoved a retired police officer. Personally I do not blame him because he was being followed and basically stalked by these people from the time the case started. It was a witch hunt and he did not receive a fair trial. Now I'm not saying that he was right and should not have been punished. I just can't wait for the city council to go down for what they did.

Gavin said...

For the record, Brian White, the man who Kilpatrick shoved, worked for the Wayne County Sheriff's Department. He may not have been a city cop, but he was a cop.

The claim that Kilpatrick was stalked (I assume that you mean by investigators and the press) is patently ridiculous. While privacy is a dicey issue for any public official, I actually would lean toward an argument that what public officials do on their own time is their own business. Kilpatrick, however, clearly never understood that there could be a dividing line between the city and himself, and when a public official abuses his position and later commits a crime (wrongful termination and then lying under oath) and uses public money to try to cover up that crime, then it's public business.

Ultimately, I don't care if Kilpatrick had an affair, or even, on its own, if he used city pagers to send dirty text messages. But when he uses city money to cover up for his own abuse of power and criminal activity, then it's not just appropriate but necessary for journalists and prosecutors to use those messages (which, might I remind you, are city property under a city policy that Kilpatrick tried to rescind after the fact) to prove it.