Detroit mayor, out of jail, now faces assault charges

Times Staff Writer

After spending the night in jail, Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick was released Friday morning, only to face hours later two new felony charges that he shoved a Sheriff’s Department investigator last month.

The charges -- assaulting or obstructing an officer -- are tied to an alleged July 24 incident in which an investigator tried to serve a subpoena to a friend of Kilpatrick’s who is a witness in a pending perjury and obstruction of justice case against the mayor.

Wayne County Sheriff’s Department Det. Brian White testified in court last month that he and his partner went to the home of the mayor’s sister to serve a subpoena to Bobby Ferguson. White said the mayor shouted vulgarities at him and then shoved him into JoAnne Kinney, an investigator for the Wayne County prosecutor.

Both investigators told the court that the mayor, who is African American, also made racially charged comments to White, who is white, and Kinney, who is black.


According to the complaint, Kilpatrick told Kinney, “You should be ashamed of yourself for being a black woman and working this case. How could you even ride in the same car with him, especially someone named White?”

Michigan Atty. Gen. Mike Cox said in a statement, “In my almost 20 years as a prosecutor and now as attorney general, I cannot recall one case where someone ever assaulted a police officer as he or she tried to serve a witness.”

Kilpatrick pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Friday afternoon. He later posted a $25,000 bond and returned to work at City Hall, where he met with his staff and thanked them for their hard work during trying times.

Kilpatrick’s defense team described the incident as a calm exchange of words between the investigators and the mayor, and that the mayor, a former football player, peacefully escorted the pair off his sister’s property.

The complaint is based on “a set-up,” said James Thomas, attorney for the two-term mayor. “Under the color of his badge, [White] tried to push his way around. When he was asked to leave twice, he didn’t.”

A preliminary hearing is set for next week.

Kilpatrick was already facing eight felony charges -- including perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice.

He and former top aide Christine Beatty testified last year in a public whistle-blower trial that they did not have a romantic relationship. The Detroit Free Press later published excerpts from more than 14,000 text messages sent to and from Beatty’s city-provided pager. Kilpatrick sent one to Beatty in 2002 that read, “I’m madly in love with you.”

Beatty was charged with seven felonies.

On Thursday, a state district court judge ruled that the mayor should be jailed for violating the conditions of his bond in the perjury case by going to Canada for a business meeting without clearing the trip with the court.

Regardless of the verdict in either case, the legacy of the 38-year-old Democrat, once heralded as “America’s hip-hop mayor,” has been tainted, legal observers say.

The political soap opera has stunned and outraged Detroit residents. Union leaders, residents across the state, lawmakers from both parties and Cox have called for Kilpatrick’s resignation for months.

Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, whom members of Detroit’s City Council have petitioned to remove Kilpatrick from office, has agreed to hold a hearing in September on their request.

The shadow of Kilpatrick’s troubles has even spread to his mother, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), who squeaked out a victory in a three-way primary race this week. Her rivals regularly pointed to her son’s predicament, and the congresswoman won just 39% of the vote, despite having a larger campaign war chest and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi campaigning for her in Michigan.

But the youngest mayor ever elected in Detroit refuses to quit.

Still, the legal battles will probably keep Kilpatrick from attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver this month, to which he is a superdelegate: U.S. Circuit Court Judge Thomas Jackson ruled Friday that he must wear an electronic-tracking device and cannot leave a three-county area.