Published January 13, 2015
As Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick returns to City Hall after publicly apologizing to his wife, children and Detroit residents for events surfacing from a text messaging sex scandal, a criminal investigation into whether or not he and his top aide lied under oath during a whistle-blower's lawsuit still hangs over his head.
Kilpatrick ended his 10-minute speech Wednesday night from the family's church with: "I'll see you at work tomorrow."
Thursday was to be his first day in the office following a week of self-imposed seclusion, which he says included focusing on his family.
In Wednesday's emotional but carefully worded televised speech, Kilpatrick avoided direct mention of racy text messages that appear to contradict his sworn denials of an affair with Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.
"I truly apologize to you," Kilpatrick said, turning to his wife, who sat by his side, holding his hand, at Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ.
"I am the mayor. I made the mistake," Kilpatrick told Detroit residents, looking into the camera. "I am accountable."
He did not publicly specify what he was apologizing for, saying legal matters prevented him from doing so. While he promised to continue leading the city, he still must face the possibility of perjury or other charges.
A prosecutor is investigating whether the mayor and Beatty lied under oath during a whistle-blower's lawsuit last summer in which both denied having a physical relationship. A conviction could bring up to 15 years' imprisonment.
"The problem is the allegation of lying under oath," said Tracy Westen, vice chair and CEO of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. "That will have to be sorted out legally. It's not a matter of him saying 'Let's get on with things."'
Even if he escapes perjury charges, the scandal, coupled with his past troubles, could be just too much baggage, said Fredrick Harris, director of Columbia University's Center on African American Politics and Society.
"The obstacles are so great. I couldn't possibly see him re-elected," Harris said. "The accusations of perjury, controversial misuse of city funds has left a huge cloud over his legacy."
His first four years were marred by use of his city-issued credit card for expensive travel, the city's lease of a luxury Lincoln Navigator for his wife and unsubstantiated allegations of a wild party involving his security team and strippers at the mayor's mansion.
Kilpatrick, 37, is in his second term and could run again next year, but the revelation of the text messages from 2002 and 2003 could spell the end of his political career.
The messages call into question testimony Kilpatrick and 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.
In court, Kilpatrick and Beatty denied having a physical 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.
Kilpatrick wrote Beatty in 2002: "I've been dreaming all day about having you all to myself for 3 days. Relaxing, laughing, talking, sleeping and making love."
Beatty submitted a letter of resignation Monday, effective Feb. 8.
He did not mention Beatty or the text messages Wednesday, but Kilpatrick did vow to remain mayor in the carefully orchestrated speech, which aired live in prime time on local television and radio stations. His voice cracked at least once during his apology while detailing how the events had affected their family.
"First, I want to apologize to my sons, Jalil, Jelani and Jonas," he said. "For the first time in my life, I had to have a conversation with my 12-year-old twin sons about very grown-up things. It was without a doubt the hardest conversation that I've ever had in my entire life."
There was no audience and no reporters or photographers, save for the operator of the sole video camera used.
"Make no mistake about it, since 2002, I have been in charge of the city," Kilpatrick said. "There have been ups and downs. There have been hills and mountains and valleys. But through it all, I remain in charge of the city."
Carlita Kilpatrick also spoke Wednesday, describing the pain her husband had caused, but urging the city to remain committed to him.
"I am angry, I am hurt, and I am disappointed," she said. "But there is no question that I love my husband."
At a pro-Kilpatrick rally outside the mayor's office a few hours before his speech, supporters held signs reading "Leave Kwame Alone," "Protect the mayor — protect your city" and "Mayor Kilpatrick
"What the mayor has done is unexplainable but not unforgivable," said the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, pastor of New Galilee Missionary Baptist Church.
After another crowd gathered a short time later to call for the mayor's resignation, shouts of "resign" were drowned out by retorts of "We love Kwame."
"I feel he should go to jail for lying on the stand. He's embarrassing for everyone," said Joann Jackson, 63, who carried a white T-shirt bearing a depiction of Kilpatrick's face and the words: "JUST QUIT."