DETROIT (AP) – Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was charged with perjury and other offenses Monday after a trove of raunchy text messages contradicted his sworn denials of an affair with his chief aide.
The 37-year-old mayor who brought youth and vitality to the job in this struggling city of 900,000 could get up to 15 years in prison for perjury alone and would be automatically expelled from office if convicted.
Ignoring mounting demands that he step down, Kilpatrick said: “I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts have been brought forth. I will remain focused on moving this city forward.”
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy brought charges of perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct against the popular but polarizing mayor. In announcing the charges, she delivered something of a civics lesson on the importance of telling the truth under oath.
“Our investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used, people’s lives were ruined, the justice system severely mocked and the public trust trampled on.”
Kilpatrick’s former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Kilpatrick had an intimate relationship in 2002 and 2003, was charged with many of the same offenses.
Both the mayor and Beatty turned themselves in for booking in the afternoon. No trial date has been set.
The mayor’s lawyer, Dan Webb, said forcing Kilpatrick to resign now would punish him before he has had his day in court.
Worthy began her investigation in late January, the day after the Detroit Free Press published excerpts from 14,000 text messages that were sent or received in 2002-03 from Beatty’s city-issued pager.
The messages called into question testimony Kilpatrick and Beatty gave last August in a lawsuit filed by two police officers who said they were fired for investigating claims that the mayor used his security unit to cover up extramarital affairs.
In court, Kilpatrick and Beatty strongly denied having an intimate relationship. But the text messages reveal that they carried on a flirty, sometimes sexually explicit dialogue about where to meet and how to conceal their trysts.
The city eventually agreed to pay $8.4 million to the two officers and a third former officer. Some of the charges brought against the mayor on Monday accuse him of agreeing to the settlement in an effort to keep the text messages from becoming public.
All of the charges against the mayor are felonies. Under the city charter, a felony conviction would mean the mayor’s immediate expulsion.
The City Council asked Kilpatrick to step down last week, but he refused, and the council has no authority to remove him in the meantime.