‘The Kwame Kilpatrick rollercoaster ride’ -- The rise and fall of former Detroit mayor

Convictions included mail fraud, wire fraud, racketeering, perjury extortion and more

The rise and fall of Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick
The rise and fall of Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick

DETROIT – Before Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 federal felonies, he served as Detroit’s mayor from 2002-08.

Kilpatrick’s time as an elected official began with the exuberance and energy of a young man who believed he was destined to become mayor.

RELATED: Detroit reporter recalls ‘magnetic’ Kwame Kilpatrick’s rise and fall

The ambitious Cass Tech graduate had a knack for connecting with people. He elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 1996 after his mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, vacated the seat for a position in Congress, representing Michigan’s 13th District. In 1998, Kwame Kilpatrick was elected minority floor leader for the Michigan Democratic Party.

He launched his bid for mayor in 2001 on the porch of his mother’s home. At 31, Kilpatrick became the youngest mayor of Detroit when elected.

He pledged to overhaul the Detroit Police Department, tear down blight and put spending in line with revenue. He launched an after-school program for children.

The story that became his undoing surfaced in 2003, when Deputy Chief Gary Brown said he was fired for looking into rumors of a wild party at the Manoogian Mansion. Others began to question Kilpatrick’s style -- large motorcades, security details ordering lunch for him, a personalized chair at a local barber shop and more.

Kilpatrick said the criticism was directed at his youthfulness as his political power rose.

In 2004, Kilpatrick spoke at the Democratic National Convention. The next year brought a new controversy when the DPD claimed a red Lincoln Navigator was used for undercover work when it had been purchased for Kilpatrick’s wife.

He was reelected in 2005.

His second term brought a rise in Detroit housing and new development Downtown.

In 2007, Kilpatrick testified in a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by Brown and another police officer who had been fired where the mayor denied having an affair with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty. The jury ruled in favor of the two police officers.

Kilpatrick said he’d appeal, but the officer’s lawyer claimed the mayor had perjured himself and provided transcripts of text messages between Kilpatrick and Beatty.

The appeal was dropped and the two police officers were paid more than $8 million.

The text messages were published and released to the public.

Kilpatrick publicly apologized and accused his critics as being racially motivated.

His support from his community and Detroit City Council began to erode.

In 2008, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy announced she was charging Kilpatrick with eight felonies and Beatty with with seven. The charges included perjury, misconduct in office and obstruction of justice.

In 2008, Kilpatrick got into further hot water when it was revealed he had violated the terms of his bail when he traveled to Windsor and had allegedly assaulted two Wayne County Sheriff’s deputies.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm planned to hold hearings and potentially remove Kilpatrick from office.

The former mayor resigned and plead guilty to charges of obstruction of justice in September 2008. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

In 2010, a judge ruled Kilpatrick had violated terms of his probation by failing to report assets and turn over tax refunds. He was sentenced to five years in jail.

At this time, the federal government was building a case against Kilpatrick and charged his friends and acquaintances. His childhood friend Derrick Miller plead guilty to accepting bribes and filing a false tax return.

Miller provided information that strengthened the federal case against Kilpatrick. The corruption case went on for months in federal court. It took two weeks for juries to deliberate.

On March 11, 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 federal felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering. The jury unanimously agreed Kilpatrick had used the mayor’s office to enrich himself, forced contractors to pay if they wanted to work in the city, use a civic fund as a personal piggy-bank for vacations, took bribes and that he never paid taxes on the extra funds revealed in his bank accounts. He was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

He repeatedly tried to repeal, but was denied.

Recently, supporters have pushed for President Donald Trump to pardon Kilpatrick or commute his sentence.

The day before Trump left the White House, he commuted Kilpatrick’s sentence.


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About the Author:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.