Friday, August 08, 2008

Low-Down Mo-Town Mayor

The soon-to-be-ex-mayor of Detroit may be the only person remaining in town if the current auto industry problems last much longer. The mayor may find himself in the local house of detention for a while, and when he gets out, he might find himself in a ghost town.

Detroit Mayor Charged With Assaulting Officer

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in court during an emergency bond appeal hearing on Friday in Detroit.
Published: August 8, 2008

DETROIT — Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick, already fighting eight felony charges including perjury, was charged Friday with two felony counts of assaulting or obstructing a police officer. The officer, a sheriff’s deputy, was attempting to serve a subpoena.

Michigan’s attorney general, Mike Cox, announced the new charges one day after Mr. Kilpatrick was sent to jail for violating the terms of his bond by traveling to Canada in July on city business. Each count carries a penalty of up to two years in prison or a $2,000 fine upon a conviction.

“It’s a very straightforward, simple case,” Mr. Cox said. “I cannot recall ever seeing — let alone hearing of — a situation where a police officer trying to serve a subpoena was assaulted.”

Moments before Mr. Cox’s announcement, a circuit court judge, Thomas E. Jackson, allowed the mayor to be released from jail after posting a $50,000 cash bond. He also took away the mayor’s travel privileges and ordered him to wear a global-positioning tether.

But Mr. Kilpatrick, 38, who is in his second term as mayor, could soon be headed back to jail, as assault charges would be another bond violation.

The incident that prompted the new charges happened July 24, a day after Mr. Kilpatrick traveled across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, on city business without court approval, a violation of the terms of his bond in the perjury case. That violation is what prompted Judge Ronald Giles of the 36th District Court in Detroit to have Mr. Kilpatrick sent to the county jail Thursday.

Mr. Cox, a Republican who called for Mr. Kilpatrick to resign in March and who is widely expected to run for governor in 2010, decided to bring the assault charges after reviewing a report from the state police, who investigated the Democratic mayor’s run-in with the deputy sheriff, Brian White.

Mr. White, testified that he suffered a fractured hip after being shoved into his partner by Mr. Kilpatrick, who played football in college. Mr. White also said that Mr. Kilpatrick, who is black, had criticized his partner for working on the case and told her that as a black woman, “You shouldn’t even be riding in a car with a guy named White.”

On Thursday, Mr. Kilpatrick, 38, admitted to Judge Giles that he traveled in violation of his bond and apologized, promising to not make such a mistake again. He also noted that he had asked his young sons to watch the hearing so they could see their father admit wrongdoing.

But the judge responded that he must treat the mayor as he would any other defendant and revoked Mr. Kilpatrick’s bond.

“If it was not Kwame Kilpatrick sitting in that seat — if it was John Six-Pack sitting in the seat — what would I do?” Judge Giles said. “And the answer is simple.”

Mr. Kilpatrick’s office released a statement saying that his chief of staff, Kandia Milton, would serve as acting mayor. “Residents can be assured government will continue to operate as usual,” the statement said.

Mr. Kilpatrick’s trip to Windsor was related to his effort to sell Detroit’s half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. He has said the city needs the money to avoid significant layoffs, but the City Council rejected the deal.

Mr. Kilpatrick, who is in his second term as mayor, told Judge Giles that he was acting in the city’s interest, and blamed his failure to seek court approval on the “tremendous strain and scrutiny” he is under while continuing to govern while fighting the charges against him.

The mayor’s jailing came nearly seven months after text messages between Mr. Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, were published by The Detroit Free Press. The messages appeared to contradict testimony by Ms. Beatty and Mr. Kilpatrick in a lawsuit against the city denying that they were having an affair. In March, the Wayne County prosecutor charged Mr. Kilpatrick with eight felonies, and Ms. Beatty, who resigned after the scandal broke, with seven.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kilpatrick and Ms. Beatty agreed to waive their right to a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for September. Experts who have been following the case believe the move was intended to prevent more damaging text messages and other evidence from surfacing before trial.

If Mr. Kilpatrick is convicted on any of the felonies he is charged with, he would lose his job as mayor under the city charter. The Detroit City Council has begun several other processes aimed at getting him out of office, however.

Council members are preparing to hold hearings into whether the charter allows them to remove Mr. Kilpatrick on grounds other than a felony conviction, and they also have asked Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm to invoke that gives her the power to oust city officials with sufficient cause.

Ms. Granholm has set Sept. 3 as the date to hear a defense from Mr. Kilpatrick before making a decision.


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