Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted today on perjury and obstruction of justice charges by a county prosecutor who said the mayor had "mocked" the justice system.
Kilpatrick held a news conference a short time later to insist that he would not resign and that he expected a jury to exonerate him.
Kikpatrick and his former chief of staff Christine Beatty were charged in a 12-count indictment that stemmed from their alleged attempt to hide their love affair. The cover-up became public during the trial of two police officers who brought a whistleblower lawsuit against the city.
"Our investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used. … The justice system was severely mocked and the public trust trampled on," Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said during a news conference today where she announced the charges.
"This case was about as far from being a private matter as one can get. Honesty and integrity in the justice system are everything," she said. The mayor faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted on all charges. A felony conviction would also mean automatic explusion of office for Kilpatrick, who has resisted calls for his resignation and has vowed to fight the charges.
Kilpatrick and Beatty are 37 and were married with children at the time of the affair. The two must turn themselves in by 7 a.m. ET Tuesday.
The mayor spoke briefly this afternoon to say he is "deeply disappointed in the prosecutor's decision, but I can't say I'm surprised."
Kilpatrick insisted he would stay on the job and would fight the charges in court.
"I look forward to complete exoneration," he said.
During most of the news conference, the mayor stood silently next to his lawyer Dan Webb as he blasted the indictment as "selective prosecution."
Webb said a jury trial is "critically important in this case," and he predicted that "after a jury has heard the actual evidence in a courtroom, the mayor will be found not guilty."
Webb also said it would be wrong for Kilpatrick to resign as mayor, a position he has worked hard to achieve. "To have that taken away from him before his day in court is wrong," Webb said.
Last fall, the brash young mayor took the stand in the whistle-blower case and denied firing one of the officers to cover up the affair he was having with Beatty. But text messages between the mayor and Beatty obtained by the whistle-blowers' attorney contradict court testimony by Kilpatrick and Beatty. On Feb. 27, the Michigan Supreme Court unsealed documents related to a secret settlement between Kilpatrick and the two police officers.
Kilpatrick came to office in 2001 as the new hope for a struggling city. The son of a U.S. congresswoman and county commissioner, he strode to office as the city's youngest mayor ever, promising fresh energy and ideas. But it wasn't long before allegations swirled around him involving abuses by his police bodyguards, an elite protection squad said to have run amok.
Harold Nelthrope, a 17-year police veteran and one of the bodyguards in that unit, started talking to internal affairs.
"I started to notice things seemed to be not right with people that were in charge of the unit," he said.