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.
When Nelthrope reported a wild party at the mayor's mansion and the alleged assault of a stripper there by the mayor's wife, the deputy police chief for internal affairs, Gary Brown, started to investigate.
Brown was a former marine and decorated 26-year Detroit police veteran. He was new in the internal affairs job, but had spent 15 years in narcotics and had been shot by a drug dealer in the line of duty.
Nelthrope claimed bodyguards were padding their timesheets, drinking on duty, having accidents and not reporting them. Those complaints were easy to verify, Brown said.
"Nelthrope's complaints had some validity to them, although they needed to be investigated further, there was credibility to Nelthrope's complaints," Brown said.
"I never got the chance to launch the full investigation," Brown said. "I was fired by the mayor prior to being able to do that."
Brown says he was called into the police chief's office and handed a letter signed by Mayor Kilpatrick relieving him of his command.
"I was fired," he said. "I mean, when they bring you into an office on a Friday and take your gun and your badge and your keys and lock you out of your office and then send your belongings home in a box? You're fired."
The Tale of the Texts
Brown fought back, along with Nelthrope, taking their claims to court under the whistle-blower law, and opening a Pandora's Box of allegations against the mayor and members of his administration, including Beatty.
"It wasn't about officers padding the payroll and it wasn't about the crashed cars," Brown said. "It was about the mayor being concerned that if we started to do an investigation regarding those issues that the onion would start to unravel, and as we interviewed executive protection officers, that the affair that he was having with Christine Beatty might come up."
On the witness stand last fall, the mayor forcefully denied that Brown was fired at all, saying he was just demoted, and denied any inappropriate relationship with Beatty, but the jury found in favor of the whistle-blowers, awarding them $6.4 million.
Kilpatrick vowed to appeal, citing the racial makeup of the jury. Then, suddenly, in an abrupt turnabout, a settlement was reached for $8.4 million. Detroiters were left scratching their heads and counting their tax dollars.
Why settle? Because a trove of 14,000 text messages sent between Kilpatrick and Beatty on city-issued pagers was obtained by the whistle-blowers' lawyer, Mike Stefani. The text messages directly contradicted the mayor and Beatty's sworn testimony.
On the stand, Kilpatrick testified that he did not fire Gary Brown. Instead, he said Brown "chose to retire."
But in a text message dated May 15, 2003, 11:02 a.m., Beatty wrote: "I'm sorry that we are going through this mess because of a decision that we made to fire Gary Brown. I will make sure that the next decision is much more thought out. Not regretting what was done at all, but thinking about how we can do things smarter."
Kilpatrick replied: "True! It had to happen though. I'm all the way with that!"
As for the relationship between Beatty and Kilpatrick, there was this exchange. "I'm madly in love with you," Kilpatrick wrote on Oct. 3, 2002.
Beatty replied: "I hope you feel that way for a long time. In case you haven't noticed, I am madly in love with you, too!"
The Truth Comes Out
The text messages were never introduced into court. But the Detroit Free Press obtained them and revealed them to a shocked city.
"We just had a hunch there was something going on here," Free Press executive editor Paul Anger said. "The city is going to appeal and then they settle suddenly. What are the documents in question here? Well, what happened was, we know now, the city gave us a sanitized version of the settlement agreement they had drawn up that was for public consumption. The true settlement was conditioned on locking the mayor and Beatty's text messages far from public view."
This settlement agreement was made public after the Feb. ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court.
After the Free Press published the damning contents of a few of the text messages, Kilpatrick took a few days off and then, with his wife at his side, apologized to her and the city for "the embarrassment and disappointment" caused by the scandal.
"I want to start tonight by saying to the citizens of this great city: I'm sorry," he said in a televised speech on Jan 30. He did not address the specifics of the scandal, citing "pending legal matters."
Beatty, his former lover and chief of staff, handed in her resignation, but Kilpatrick has vowed to stay in office and has not apologized for spending millions of taxpayer dollars to keep his secrets secret.
With unemployment, foreclosures, and abandoned buildings on the rise in Detroit, Anger and others say the city could do a lot with the $9 million this case has cost the city so far.
"Well, it could knock down more than a thousand abandoned homes that are blights on the city," Anger said. "It could hire several hundred police officers or firefighters. It would do all sorts of things for the city, so that is money that could have definitely been better spent.
"The [romantic] relationship is not the important thing here," he said. "The important thing here is all the broken china for the city of Detroit, and the people who are really forgotten here and the three former cops, the whistle-blower cops who risk their necks to bring this out in front of the public."
For the whistleblowers, though, life-long Detroiters, the victory is bittersweet.
Nelthrope has moved out of Detroit and says he still fears retaliation for coming forward. Brown, who recently bought a home in Florida, intends to return to public life in Detroit.
"I'm going to go back and do what I do best, and that's servicing the citizens of the city of Detroit," he said. "I'm not abandoning the city of Detroit. I'm eagerly awaiting some new leadership so I can get more involved in the city and help it move forward."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.