DETROIT S long civic nightmare ended Thursday when the Motor City s bizarre mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, pleaded guilty to two felonies and agreed to a host of penalties that included resigning from office, paying a million-dollar fine, giving up his law license, and serving four months in jail. That may sound harsh. But given what he did to his city, the self-styled hip-hop mayor got off lightly.
Kwame Kilpatrick, the privileged child of career politicians, proclaimed at age 9 that he intended to become Detroit s mayor. When he claimed the prize at age 31, he acted as if poverty-stricken Detroit was his candy store, and the charter called for him to party all the time.
Limousines were left idling in the streets for hours. On the road, his living-it-up lifestyle was so intense that the police in Washington, D.C., declined to protect him.
Nevertheless, the voters narrowly re-elected him three years ago, in part because many middle-class blacks had fled to the suburbs, and partly because he had scored some downtown development successes.
But the mayor soon would sow the seeds to his own destruction. This year, the world learned that he had cost his impoverished city nearly $9 million in a court settlement designed to cover up his cover-up. He successfully had plotted to ruin the careers of a deputy police chief and two other policemen because he was afraid they might expose his private life.
And he had ample reason to fear exposure: His numerous affairs included a long-standing one with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, who helped him plot to fire the police chief and who joined him in perjury on the witness stand late last year. Unfortunately, the dynamic couple seemed addicted to texting their every X-rated thought and move to each other, including their plans to fire the police chief, and did so on city-owned pagers. During the trial, the messages fell into the hands of a lawyer for the policemen.
When the mayor learned his enemies had a smoking gun, he advised City Council to pay the policemen more than the amount the jury awarded them, but never told them why. Eventually, however, a newspaper published the texts. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Kilpatrick with eight felonies. For a while, he vowed to tough it out. Then, the mayor, a physically enormous man, allegedly assaulted a sheriff s deputy trying to serve a subpoena to a contractor the mayor favored. That brought two more felony assault charges and signaled the beginning of the end.
On Thursday, the mayor, alternatively sullen and smirking, faced the music in televised court proceedings. The mayor then held a press conference in which he whined that the governor was persecuting him, and bizarrely claimed to have left his successor, Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr., a city in better shape than he found it. Then, he grinned. Detroit, you done set me up for a comeback, he said.
Anyone with a shred of compassion for Detroit has to pray that he s dead wrong.