Published January 13, 2015
With the plea deal Thursday between prosecutors and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick that removed him from office, the city is left with a mixed legacy. Kilpatrick persuaded big business to invest in a city staggering from the auto industry's woes and a decades-long exodus of people, but he failed to live up to a promising political future due to repeated scandal.
The son of a Detroit congresswoman, Kilpatrick was just 31 when he was elected in 2001, becoming the youngest mayor in city history.
His bold, pro-black, pro-Detroit rhetoric and diamond stud earring endeared Kilpatrick to many blacks, especially young voters who embraced the "Hip-Hop Mayor." But many whites in the suburbs began to see him as another Coleman Young, whose 20-plus years at City Hall deepened the racial rift between Detroit and its neighbors.
He was the biggest cheerleader when Detroit landed Major League Baseball's 2005 All-Star Game and the 2006 NFL Super Bowl. His ability to work with business leaders also has been credited with an overhaul of the city's riverfront and development downtown.
But Kilpatrick's first term was marked by political immaturity and fiscal irresponsibility. He racked up thousands of dollars in travel on his city-issued credit card and the city's lease of a luxury Lincoln Navigator for his wife, Carlita.
Less than a year into the first term, rumors surfaced of a wild party involving strippers and members of Kilpatrick's security team at the Manoogian Mansion, the mayor's residence along the Detroit River.
He has denied the rumors, and a state investigation backed him up. But a civil lawsuit pending in federal court claims a woman who performed at the party was beaten with a baseball bat by Carlita Kilpatrick, who arrived home unexpectedly.
The woman, Tamara Greene, was fatally shot outside her home in 2003. The lawsuit claims Kilpatrick, then-chief of staff Christine Beatty and police officials stifled the investigation. Her death is unsolved.
Whether truth or urban legend, that stew eventually brought down Kilpatrick.
Former Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown filed a lawsuit in 2003, claiming he was fired for looking into the alleged party and investigating the actions of the mayor's bodyguards.
During the 2007 trial, Kilpatrick and Beatty sat in the witness chair and denied having a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003.
But a bombshell rocked Detroit in January: The Detroit Free Press published sexually explicit text messages recovered from Beatty's city-issued pager that contradicted their courtroom denials.
"I truly apologize to you," Kilpatrick said, turning to his wife, who held his hand at Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ.
"I am the mayor," Kilpatrick told Detroit residents, looking into the camera. "I made the mistake."
He and Beatty were charged with perjury and other felonies. Detroit's mayor was fingerprinted and his mug shot was distributed around the world, but Kilpatrick remained in office.
More text messages released in April revealed the evolution of flirty and sexually explicit exchanges to professions of love and promises of marriage.
In September 2002, Beatty described a sex act she wanted to perform on the mayor. He replied: "Next time, just tell me to sit down, shut up and do your thing!"
Later that month, Beatty wrote to the mayor: "I love you so much man! Thank you for showing what it's like to be head over heels in love."
In May, the City Council asked Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to remove Kilpatrick from office, saying it was misled into approving a $8.4 million settlement with Brown and two other officers. Council members said they didn't know about provisions to keep the text messages under wraps.
In July, a sheriff's detective trying to serve a subpoena on a Kilpatrick friend said he was shoved by the mayor and showered with F-words. Assault charges followed.
The next month, a judge ordered the mayor to jail for violating the terms of his bond by traveling to Windsor, Ontario, on business without notifying authorities. He was released the next day, but the incident prompted some politicians and community leaders who had remained silent on the scandal to call for his resignation.
At one point, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's camp even said Kilpatrick, a superdelegate, would be a distraction at the Democratic National Convention. Kilpatrick, whose bond kept his travel limited to the metro Detroit area, did not attend. On Wednesday night, a Michigan spokesman for Obama said Kilpatrick should quit for his city's good.