Editorial: Guilty as charged

Outside the Wayne County Circuit Court where Kwame Kilpatrick's reign as mayor of Detroit finally came to an end Thursday morning, a trio of women — African-Americans apparently in their late 20s and early 30s — held signs showing support for the city's felon in chief.

They blame the news media for Kilpatrick's fall. Or as one sign put it: "The media helped to Kill-Patrick."

"Maybe he made some mistakes," one of them said, "but he doesn't deserved to be dragged through the mud like this."

Racism and jealousy and hatred motivated the reporters and commentators who, as they see it, set their sights on Kilpatrick and fired at will.


As much as it has been said already, and even though there are some people who will never accept the facts, the one person responsible for the downfall of Kwame Kilpatrick is Kwame Kilpatrick.

He was done in by his arrogance and his lies and his abuse of the power voters bestowed upon him.

That's not to say the media didn't play their role in all this. If it weren't for the Free Press and its disclosure of text messages that showed Kilpatrick and former chief of staff and paramour Christine Beatty lied under oath, all of southeast Michigan's media would never have been sitting in court Thursday morning watching this bit of history unfold.

But those reporters were just doing their job, just as reporters at this paper were doing their job more than five years ago when we first revealed the contents of sworn depositions that laid out allegations that Kilpatrick fired one cop and smeared another in an attempt to conceal his philandering and other potentially embarrassing and possibly illegal activities. No amount of scapegoating on the part of Kilpatrick and his supporters changes that. Despite the repeated and destructive playing of the race card in a desperate attempt to retain power, Kilpatrick's downfall came not because he is black but because he is corrupt.

You've got to give him this, though: The guy knows how to put up a good front. He walked into the courtroom seeming every bit a man in charge instead of one facing the certainty of spending some time behind bars, shaking hands with sheriff's deputies, joking with a reporter. Looking sharp in a copper-colored suit that had an almost iridescent shimmer, he pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice related to the perjury committed during the whistle-blower lawsuit brought by two former police officers. He also pleaded "no contest" to another felony stemming from an altercation involving officers working for the Prosecutor's Office as they attempted to serve a subpoena. He's resigned as mayor with just two weeks to allow for a transition. He'll serve 120 days in Wayne County jail. He'll also have to pay $1 million in restitution to the city, forfeit his law license and won't be able to run for public office for at least five years.

There will be people who will continue to talk about all the good Kilpatrick did for his city, and claim that the media took after him like a mob with noosed rope in hand. It is an image the mayor played up right to the end when Judge David Groner asked him if he understood that, by pleading guilty, he was relinquishing his right to a trial as well as the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.

"I think I gave up that right a long time ago," said Kilpatrick.

But here's the real deal. Kilpatrick's actions have already come under a jury's scrutiny. Eleven citizens listened to the evidence and decided that Kilpatrick and those around him wrongly fired former Internal Affairs Chief Gary Brown for looking into allegations involving the mayor and his executive protection unit.

As far as we are concerned, Kilpatrick forfeited any claim to credibility when the jury found in favor of Brown and fellow officer Harold Nelthrope, who claimed he was retaliated against for going to Internal Affairs with concerns about the mayor's bodyguards padding their overtime and rumored attempts to cover up a Manoogian Mansion party that, officially at least, never happened.

That jury didn't believe Kilpatrick's claims, and it cost this financially troubled city $8.4 million. But beyond that, it was, at its heart, the most disturbing form of corruption. A chief executive who kills an investigation because he is the target has no right to hold office.


We won't be at all surprised if, in the weeks and months to come, more scandals involving Kilpatrick come to light. His close ties with another convicted felon — contractor Bobby Ferguson — and the contracts Ferguson has reaped since Kilpatrick took office, the investigation into the Synagro sludge-burning contract and other deals, as well as questions being raised about the actions of Kilpatrick's father Bernard all hold the potential to cause more legal problems for this man who once seemed to have a future without limitations.

Time will tell about that. It will also take time — at least five years – to determine whether Kilpatrick will be able to stage the political comeback promised during an astonishing speech he gave Thursday evening. Sounding more like a candidate looking to the next election than a newly convicted felon preparing to head to the slammer, Kilpatrick expressed regrets but seemed anything but contrite. He spotlighted his accomplishments, as if they weren't now overshadowed by the immense damage he's done to this city. It is apparently impossible for him to comprehend a world that does not have Kwame Kilpatrick as its focal point.

Given the paralysis caused by this scandal, there is no doubt this city will be much better off with him gone. But that does not make this a happy day for the city of Detroit.

Certainly there is a sense of relief, a hope that absent the massive distraction caused by Kilpatrick's self-described roller-coaster ride, city government will once again get back in gear. And, speaking strictly for ourselves as card-carrying members of the media mob, there is a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served and an inherently dishonest man who put his own self-interests above those of the city he professed to love has been removed from office. And that the media did its job by exposing what the powers that be tried to keep hidden from a public that deserved to know the truth.

But satisfaction is different from joy. A lot of people have been put through way too much grief throughout all this, including Kilpatrick's family. This struggling city has been made the butt of jokes at a time when it needs all the help it can get. City government has ground to a halt. In addition to the original $8.4 million settlement, no one has tallied the millions of dollars that have surely been spent prosecuting and defending these cases. And a potential star on the national political horizon has been snuffed.

So, no, there is no joy to be found in any of this. Only relief that it is mostly over, and hope for the future as this city once again begins moving forward.

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