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Published: Friday, 8/15/2008

Detroit mayor cleared for Denver, but 2nd judge overrules 1st

FROM THE BLADE'S NEWS SERVICES
Attorney James Thomas, left, and client Kwame Kilpatrick have a topsy-turvy day in court as a judge orders Mr. Kilpatrick to be freed from his electronic tether. On appeal, another judge said the tether stays on. Attorney James Thomas, left, and client Kwame Kilpatrick have a topsy-turvy day in court as a judge orders Mr. Kilpatrick to be freed from his electronic tether. On appeal, another judge said the tether stays on.
JERRY S. MENDOZA / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - Just when it seemed that the scandal involving Detroit's embattled mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, could not grow any more bizarre, it did.

Yesterday morning, a judge ordered that Mr. Kilpatrick be allowed to attend the Democratic Party's national convention this month in Denver and be freed from his electronic tether.

Hours later, a second judge overturned the ruling after prosecutors appealed.

Mr. Kilpatrick is facing assault and perjury charges.

The second judge, Ronald Giles of the 36th District Court in Detroit, said Mr. Kilpatrick must remain in a three-county area around Detroit unless granted permission to travel.

Mr. Kilpatrick had worn a tether since last Friday, after spending a night in jail for violating the terms of his bond by traveling to Canada on what he said was city business.

Earlier yesterday, Judge Leonard Townsend of the Wayne County Circuit Court called the restrictions "silly" and unwarranted during an arraignment for Mayor Kilpatrick on eight felony charges, including perjury.

"I don't think the people of the city of Detroit should be represented by a person wearing prison clothes or wearing a tether," Judge Townsend said.

But Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox argued that Judge Townsend did not have the authority to change Mr. Kilpatrick's bond. Judge Giles agreed.

Mr. Kilpatrick is a Democratic super delegate who has pledged his support to the party's presumptive nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Mr. Kilpatrick's absence apparently won't upset the Obama campaign.

A spokesman for the Democratic candidate says the embattled mayor would be a distraction if he's on hand when Mr. Obama accepts the party's presidential nomination in Denver.

Mr. Kilpatrick's lawyer, James Thomas, said high-ranking Democrats want the mayor to attend the convention.

But Mr. Obama's Michigan spokesman said the focus of the convention should be on Mr. Obama, not the mayor. He wouldn't say Mr. Kilpatrick should not be allowed to attend, however, and declined to say if the campaign would ask Mr. Kilpatrick to stay home.

"The focus of our convention should be on Barack Obama and how the party intends to get America back on track, not [on] a distraction involving the troubles of one individual," spokesman Brent Colburn said.

Mr. Kilpatrick echoed Mr. Colburn's assessment in a statement released last night.

"The nomination of Senator Obama at the Democratic National Convention will be a historic event. However, I'm focused on running the city and I don't want anything to distract from that extraordinary moment," Mr. Kilpatrick said. "The focus should remain on uniting the party and leading our great nation in a different direction."

Even if he gets judicial permission to go to Denver, it's hard to see how Mr. Kilpatrick would be welcome at the convention.

He didn't appear at a June 16 rally at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena that drew 20,000 people to see Mr. Obama and surprise guest Al Gore, a nod to concerns that the mayor's growing notoriety could taint Mr. Obama, the first black to become a presumptive presidential nominee.

Prominent Michigan Democrats won't say openly they don't want Mr. Kilpatrick in Denver, though U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan super delegate from the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, has called for Mr. Kilpatrick to resign as mayor. Many Democrats have expressed concerns privately about where the attention will be if the 6 foot, 4 inch, 300-pound mayor attends.

No one has filed a challenge with the Democratic National Committee's Credentials Committee that could stop him from being a super delegate. If for some reason Mr. Kilpatrick doesn't go to Denver, he would not be able to cast his vote by proxy or have an alternate cast it for him, according to a committee spokesman.

Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said he doesn't plan to weigh in on whether Mr. Kilpatrick should attend the convention or stay home.

"That's up to him, in terms of all the things he has to deal with," Mr. Brewer said yesterday. "He's a credentialed delegate, and he's entitled to be there."

Although Republican presidential candidate John McCain told reporters Wednesday that he didn't think Mr. Kilpatrick's legal troubles would be used as an issue in his Michigan campaign, an ad being run by the Tennessee Republican Party attempts to tie the two together.

The ad shows the two men embracing at the podium after Mr. Kilpatrick introduces Mr. Obama before the senator spoke to the May, 2007, meeting of the Detroit Economic Club.

"I want to first acknowledge your great mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick," Mr. Obama says. The ad goes on to list the 10 charges against Mr. Kilpatrick, even though the mayor's legal troubles had not begun when Mr. Obama spoke to the Economic Club.

Despite that, the ad ends with the phrase: "That's not the kind of change the American people are hoping for."

Mr. Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, both pleaded not guilty at yesterday's arraignment. Ms. Beatty resigned in January after the publication of text messages suggesting that she and the mayor had an affair, contrary to testimony they gave in a police whistleblower lawsuit last year. She is charged with seven felonies.

Despite growing calls for Mr. Kilpatrick to resign, including from some prominent Democrats and a prominent black newspaper in Detroit this week, he has refused. He would lose his job under the city's charter if convicted of a felony.

The only official with the clear power to remove Mr. Kilpatrick is Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has scheduled a hearing Sept. 3 to decide whether to take such action.

"This has got to be resolved," she told reporters at an automotive industry convention in northern Michigan. "This has been very, very difficult for the city and for the state. It's obvious why we need a resolution."



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