LANSING, Mich. – Prosecutors accusing Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of lying on the witness stand to cover up an extramarital affair with a top aide said Wednesday that a plea deal is expected soon in the case, though the mayor's attorneys insisted one had not been struck yet.
The surprise development came as Gov. Jennifer Granholm heard evidence in an extraordinary hearing that could result in the married mayor's removal from office. The outcome of the criminal case does not necessarily bear on the governor's hearing.
The City Council is trying to have Kilpatrick removed, saying it was misled when it approved an $8.4 million settlement last year with fired police officers.
Council members say they didn't know the deal carried secret provisions to keep a lid on steamy text messages between Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty, who was his chief of staff, on city-issued pagers.
The office of Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wednesday that an agreement in the perjury case was expected soon, first saying it would come that afternoon and later saying it would be Thursday morning.
Kilpatrick attorney James Thomas, who was at the governor's hearing Wednesday, agreed it was "apparent that they are close" to a plea deal, but said it was not a sure thing.
"That plea deal has not been consummated," Thomas said after the hearing, which Kilpatrick was not required to attend. A spokeswoman said he was working on city business.
Kilpatrick spokesman Chris Garrett told The Associated Press that a statement from the mayor's office was not expected Wednesday night and that negotiations with prosecutors continue.
The mayor would automatically be expelled from office if he is convicted of a felony. But even if he avoids a felony conviction in the perjury case and persuades the governor not to remove him, he still faces assault charges stemming from a confrontation in July.
The settlement between the city and the mayor in the case of the fired police officers was the product of an "incredible pattern of deception and nondisclosure," council lawyer William Goodman said at Wednesday's removal hearing.
"It was settled to cover up the truth. It was fast and it was rushed," he said.
"These are not minor transgressions, Gov. Granholm. They have brought this city to a grinding halt," Goodman said.
"The mayor has often expressed his love for the city of Detroit. ... But to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, men often kill the thing they love," he said. "Be assured this city has not been killed yet, but it is gravely wounded, and the mayor must be removed."
In her opening statement, the mayor's attorney, Sharon McPhail, covered much ground, some of it unrelated to the case at hand.
She predicted unnamed council members who want Kilpatrick kicked out are awaiting indictment on "far worse charges." McPhail urged the governor, like Kilpatrick a Democrat, to resist calls to fire the mayor.
"It's too stupid to be plausible" that Kilpatrick came up with a secret pact to cover up embarrassing text messages, McPhail said.
Michigan governors are allowed by the state constitution to remove elected officials for misconduct, but the target never has been the leader of the state's largest city. The last time was in 1982, when Gov. William Milliken let a township official stay in office if he stopped drinking.
Granholm has pared the case to two issues: Did Kilpatrick settle the lawsuits for personal gain because he feared release of the text messages? And did the mayor conceal information from the City Council?
Michael Stefani, an attorney for three former police officers, said Wednesday that he quickly settled lawsuits against the city after he told opposing attorneys that he planned to file text messages in court showing an affair between the mayor and an aide.
Two officers had already won their whistle-blower trial the previous year, but the financial remedy ordered by a jury could have been appealed. Legal fees were unsettled, too.
Kilpatrick's lawyer, Sam McCargo, "looked shaken up" when he saw the messages and said he could call the mayor to pursue a "global resolution" with the officers, according to Stefani.
After the Detroit Free Press published the text messages this year, Kilpatrick and Beatty were charged in Wayne County Circuit Court with perjury, conspiracy, misconduct and obstruction of justice.
A sheriff's detective later said Kilpatrick shoved him into another investigator as they were trying to serve a subpoena to the mayor's friend in the perjury case. That resulted in two assault charges against the mayor.
If Kilpatrick is forced from office, City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. would succeed him until a special election is held.