DETROIT Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a one-time rising star and Detroit's youngest elected leader, was charged Monday with perjury and other counts after sexually explicit text messages contradicted his sworn denials of an affair with a top aide.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also charged the popular yet polarizing 37-year-old mayor with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office. Kilpatrick, who was to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon, could face up to 15 years in prison and be expelled from office if convicted.
"Some have suggested that the issues in this case are personal or private," Worthy said. "Our investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used, people's lives were ruined, the justice system severely mocked and the public trust trampled on. ... This case is about as far from being a private matter as one can get."
Speaking two hours later, the Democratic mayor said he expects to be cleared. He did not deny wrongdoing and did not address the calls for his resignation.
"I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts have been brought forth," Kilpatrick said. "I will remain focused on moving this city forward."
Former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Kilpatrick had a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. A message seeking comment from Beatty's attorney, Jeffrey Morganroth, was not returned.
The charges could signal the end of Kilpatrick's six-year career as mayor of one of America's largest cities. Calls for his resignation have surfaced since late January and the Detroit City Council asked him to step down last week.
Worthy began her investigation the day after the Free Press published excerpts of the embarrassing text messages in late January. The messages called into question testimony Kilpatrick and Beatty gave in a lawsuit filed by two police officers who alleged they were fired for investigating claims that the mayor used his security unit to cover up extramarital affairs.
In court, Kilpatrick and Beatty denied having an intimate relationship, but the text messages reveal that they carried on a flirty, sometimes sexually explicit dialogue about where to meet and how to conceal their trysts.
Kilpatrick is married with three children. Beatty was married at the time and has two children.
The city agreed to pay $8.4 million to the two officers and a third former officer who filed a separate lawsuit. Documents released last month showed Kilpatrick agreed to the settlement in an effort to keep the text messages from becoming public.
The text messages published by the Free Press revealed a romantic discourse.
"I'm madly in love with you," Kilpatrick wrote on Oct. 3, 2002.
"I hope you feel that way for a long time," Beatty replied. "In case you haven't noticed, I am madly in love with you, too!"
Before announcing the eight counts against Kilpatrick and seven against Beatty, Worthy scolded the pair, emphasizing the importance of being truthful in legal settings, saying "even children understand that lying is wrong."
"If a witness lies, innocent people can go to jail or prison, people can literally get away with murder, civil litigants who deserve money may not get it or may get money they don't deserve," she said. "And lying cannot be tolerated even if a judge or jury sees through it."
Perjury is a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A felony conviction would mean Kilpatrick's immediate expulsion from office under the Detroit City Charter.
Kilpatrick faces charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, misconduct in office, perjury in a court proceeding and two counts of perjury other than in a court proceeding.
Beatty is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury in a court proceeding and two counts of perjury other than in a court proceeding.
For Beatty, who attended high school with Kilpatrick and managed his campaigns for Michigan's state House and the mayor's office, the scandal forced her to resign.
City lawyers and Kilpatrick's attorneys waged a futile legal battle to keep documents related to the lawsuit settlement and text messages from public eyes.
Calls for his resignation surfaced in late January from some city union leaders and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox repeated that call.