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Published: Tuesday, 3/25/2008

Detroit mayor, former aide arraigned in perjury case, plead not guilty

FROM THE BLADE'S NEWS SERVICES

DETROIT Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his former top aide have pleaded not guilty to charges they lied under oath about having an affair.

The mayor and former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty were arraigned Tuesday. Not guilty pleas were entered for them on charges of perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.

Both are accused of lying under oath about an affair and their roles in the firing of a top police official. Steamy text messages first reported by the Detroit Free Press revealed a flirty, sometimes explicit, dialogue between the two.

Attorneys for both say their clients will be exonerated.

(From earlier editions of toledoblade.com)

DETROIT - Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who pledged an urban renaissance in Detroit when he won election as America's youngest big-city mayor in 2001, was charged yesterday with eight felonies in an obstruction-of-justice case that threatens to end his career.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Mr. Kilpatrick lied to a jury and settled a whistle-blower lawsuit with $8.4 million in tax dollars to hide an affair with his chief of staff.

The charges include perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and misconduct in office.

Mr. Kilpatrick, a 37-year-old Democrat who is serving his seventh year in office, is the first Detroit mayor to face criminal charges while still in office.

Ms. Worthy said her investigation of Mr. Kilpatrick, who is married and has three sons, was not a private question of "lying about sex."

"Public dollars were used, people's lives were ruined, the justice system was severely mocked, and the public trust trampled on," she said. "This case is about as far from being a private matter as one can get."

If convicted on all eight counts, Mr. Kilpatrick would face a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison, though a far shorter sentence would be possible.

The "Hip-Hop 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.

Mr. Kilpatrick has ignored demands that he step down.

"I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts have been brought forth," he said yesterday. "I will remain focused on moving this city forward."

Mr. Kilpatrick turned himself in for booking about 5 p.m. at a Wayne County Sheriff's Department office in Westland, just outside Detroit.

His former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Mr. Kilpatrick had an intimate relationship in 2002 and 2003, was charged with many of the same offenses.

She turned herself in for booking earlier in the afternoon.

Both were fingerprinted and photographed, sheriff's spokesman John Roach said.

They are scheduled to be arraigned today.

No trial date has been set.

Mayer Morganroth, Ms. Beatty's attorney, said the prosecutor's comments were full of "assertions and conjecture."

"I was sort of stunned by the prosecutor laying out the charges in the way that she did," he said, noting Ms. Beatty's right to a fair and unbiased trial. "It sounded more like a closing argument to a jury.

"We have full confidence she will be exonerated," he said.

The mayor's lawyer, Dan Webb, said forcing Mr. Kilpatrick to resign now would punish him before he has his day in court.

Ms. 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 Ms. Beatty's city-issued pager.

The messages called into question testimony Mr. Kilpatrick and Ms. Beatty gave in a lawsuit filed by two police officers who alleged they were fired for investigating claims that the mayor used his security unit to cover up extramarital affairs.

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 yesterday accuse him of agreeing to the settlement in an effort to keep the text messages from becoming public.

In announcing the charges, Ms. Worthy delivered a 14-minute lecture on the oath that all the witnesses take and how the criminal justice system relies on people to tell the truth.

"Even children understand that lying is wrong," she said.

Ms. Worthy, who led an eight-week investigation, charged that city lawyers blocked her work "at every bend and turn."

She said prosecutors were told that documents had been destroyed or lost - "we don't know when or by whom."

Ms. Worthy said the investigation was ongoing and other people could be charged. She did not elaborate.



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