American Case Study, Finale

Fmr. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in court
Fmr. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in court

This post completes a three part series: Part I and Part II are useful to read as well.

Kwame Kilpatrick has led a magical life as the scion of a powerful black political family in Michigan’s city of Detroit. As the son of  Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (the current Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus), he was elected to be the mayor of Detroit in an historic election in 2002 that saw him inaugurated as the youngest mayor in “Motown” history.

An articulate and charismatic young man, unfortunately Kilpatrick tended to skate on his charm; even while he ignored many questions about his competence and fitness for office. This tendency explains why his Wikipedia entry has been updated to reflect his new address: Cell 14J-4, Capias Unit, Andrew C. Baird Facility, Wayne County Jail.

On Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 (last Tuesday) Kilpatrick was sentenced to 120 days in jail for the crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice; his law license was revoked; and he was ordered to pay $1-million dollars in restitution to Detroit. So before continuing, let’s dig into the background of the crime — it involves a sex scandal.

Let’s take the account from Wikipedia, because I think it is instructive to read the manufactured outrage of this pathological liar who, as a lawyer, was supposed to be a steward of the law:

In 2003, a civil lawsuit was filed against Kilpatrick by his ex-bodyguard Harold Nelthrope and former Deputy Chief Police Gary Brown. The police officers claim they were fired because of an internal probe into the mayor’s personal actions and that the firing was a violation of the whistleblower law.

The trial began in August 2007 with Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty both denying they were involved in an extramarital affair. In his testimony, Kilpatrick expressed anger about claims of an affair between him and Beatty and under oath said:
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Member of Congress and the mother of Kwame Kilpatrick
” I think it was pretty demoralizing to her-you have to know her-but it’s demoralizing to me as well,” he said. “My mother is a congresswoman. There have always been strong women around me. My aunt is a state legislator. I think it’s absurd to assert that every woman that works with a man is a whore. I think it’s disrespectful not just to Christine Beatty but to women who do a professional job that they do every single day. And it’s also disrespectful to their families as well.

The trial ended on September 11, 2007, after three hours of jury deliberation, in a verdict awarding the plaintiffs $6.5 million in damages. In an angry speech in front of City Hall made minutes after the verdict was read, Kilpatrick blamed the “wrong verdict” on white suburbanite jurors. Kilpatrick also stated “There’s race in this, and we run from it in this region. And I think it’s impossible for us to move forward as a region without confronting it head-on. But I don’t want what has happened in the past 24 months to be erased by what has happened in the last two days.

Source: Wikipedia

So the context is that Detroit is a majority black city being roiled with economic strife. As Motown Records and the auto-industry that made this city famous have moved away or faced significant challenges of their own, the city’s economic base has been severely eroded. Crime and violence are spiraling up, income and opportunity are spiraling down — people are suffering and elected Kilpatrick to take responsibility and use his youth and “young blood” to incorporate new ideas and new technologies into governance so that the city might live as it so clearly faces death, and become the “Next Detroit.” There is brain drain as young blacks who can get a college education can’t find opportunities; and there is white flight which has led to a heightened sense of racial division and animosity. Kilpatrick then, was doing much of what Jamaican politicians seem to do — he talked a really great game and never delivered. Even I was impressed by how much of a prolific, master bullshit artiste he was; but he came to over-rely on the use of soaring rhetoric and simmering divisions to paper over his numerous failings and callous incompetence.

Does that sound familiar to you, Jamaica? Does it resemble your experience of the last 25 years?

Kilpatrick Mug Shot
Kilpatrick Mug Shot

The Kwame Kilpatrick Playbook then is to always cry “racism;” and for that reason in particular I am personally filled with schadenfreude at the reckoning he has been made to face. People believed in this young man, they trusted him to help them out of their crisis — and he betrayed and violated the public trust in the most vile and despicable ways. Again, he acted like so many Jamaican politicians on both sides of our political aisle. But if I seem harsh on Kwame Kilpatrick, I want you to know why: he knew he lied, he got caught lying due to text messages, and in March 2008 during his State of the City address (like the Presidential State of the Union)  Kilpatrick did a most foul thing. In March (against a backdrop of the Democratic Party presidential primary) with the Barack Obama campaign being careful in pointing out the ways that the Hillary Clinton campaign was seeking to capitalize on racial divisions to defeat Obama’s candidacy (link to parody video); Kilpatrick used the word “NIGGER” in his State of the Union address — the equivalent of Jamaica’s Governor General letting loose a string of expletives during the Throne Speech as it was simulcast live on television.

That was low; lower than when Kwame Kilpatrick had a stripper party at the Mayor’s official residence; a party that it is rumored led to the murder of one stripper performing — some claim at the Mayor’s behest. To inject this epithet from that position, in that venue, against that background shows you how trifling Kilpatrick can be — and many latched on this action as an example of an Obama ally “playing the race-card;” which black people are often accused of doing. Back in March, Obama was still too publicly supportive of Kilpatrick, even having said at one point that he, Obama, was “grateful to call [Kilpatrick] a friend.” So Kilpatrick’s inflammatory little stunt, told me everything I needed to know about Kwame Kilpatrick; he is a textbook selfish individual.

His downfall came as a result of technology, I’ll let the Wikipedia entry explain:

In January 2008, The Detroit Free Press examined and revealed the existence of more than 14,000 text messages exchanged between Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty on their city issued SkyTel pagers between September 2002 – October 2002 and April 2003 – May 2003. The dates are of importance because they encompass the time periods of the alleged Manoogian Mansion party and the ouster of Gary Brown respectively.

The text-messages are the nucleus of an $8.4 million secret deal settlement by the city of Detroit. The attorneys for the city had tried since 2004 to keep the text messages hidden on the basis that they were personal and private communications. However, a city directive re-authorized by Kilpatrick during his first term as mayor indicates that all electronic communication sent on city equipment should be “used in an honest, ethical, and legal manner” and cautions, “is not considered to be personal or private.” The mayor’s spokesman said the policy only applies to city-owned equipment and the text-messages are exempt since they were sent on a city-leased device.

Kilpatrick and Beatty, both married at the time, did discuss city business; however, many of the series of messages describe not a professional relationship but an extramarital sexual relationship between the two, often in graphic detail. The text messages further describe their use of city funds to arrange romantic getaways, their fears of being caught by the mayor’s police protection unit, and evidence the pair conspired to fire Detroit Police Deputy Chief Gary Brown.

Source: Wikipedia

Kilpatrick’s sentencing hearing then had special resonance for me. The judge lambasted the frequent theatrics of his public denials:

“Ultimately what shocked this Court and much of the community was your press conference after your plea hearing. That night the community expected to hear a message of humility, remorse and apology. Instead, we heard an arrogant and defiant man who accused the governor, among others, for his downfall. Your statements were incredible given the fact that you had just pled guilty to two felony counts for perjury and obstruction of justice and no contest to one count of assaulting a police officer in exchange for dismissal of seven counts before this Court. Although the Probation Department’s pre-sentence report indicates that you have accepted responsibility for your actions, this Court questions your sincerity.”

And, the judge pointed out why Kilpatrick would not get a lenient sentence from the court; I recommend you read the judge’s statement below out loud — and imagine it being said to one of the many Jamaican politicians deserving of being so addressed:

“You are not the typical defendant. You swore under oath as a lawyer to conduct yourself personally and professionally in conformity with the high standards imposed upon members of the bar. You vowed to uphold honor, integrity and loyalty in the performance of duties … as mayor. You were a leader in this community, and you occupied the highest office in one of the largest cities in the nation.

“With all the challenges faced by this city you were expected to lead from the front and set the example. Instead, you violated your fiduciary responsibilities by misrepresenting and misleading the City Council into accepting a legal settlement, which ultimately cost the people of Detroit in excess of $8.4 million, all in an attempt to protect your political career. At a time when this city needed transparency, accountability and responsibility, you exhibited hubris and privilege.”

Source: Detroit Freepress, October 28th, 2008

You can watch Kwame Kilpatrick receive his sentence, in a 28 minute video, here.

Having already described Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens trial and travails, I won’t dwell on it again here except to note two things. Firstly, the cross examination he endured after he made the voluntary choice to take the stand in his own defense.

Sen. Ted Stevens in July as his trial began (Photo: AP/Gerald Hubert)

The lead federal prosecutor, Brenda Morris, subjected the Senator to tough questioning. As a tangent I want to note Morris is an African-American prosecutor, and when Ted Stevens entered the Senate in December of 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated that year in April, and America was rife with racial animosity and resentment. In 2008, a black woman is the voice of the law, prosecuting a man that entered the Senate when the South was still segregated —  this is a statement on the premise and promise of America. Anyway, the lead federal prosecutor subjected the senator to particularly tough cross-examination about a massage chair he received as a gift and failed to declare the receipt of:

Morris and Stevens dueled over a $2,700 massage chair given to Stevens by his neighbor, Bob Persons, in 2001. Stevens never reported getting the chair from Persons, a potential violation of Senate ethics rules.

Stevens still has the chair in his home but he considers it a “loan.”

“It’s just a loan,” Stevens insisted of the massage chair.

Morris then sarcastically asked Stevens if he had other furniture in his home owned by other people.

“We have lots of furniture in our house that doesn’t belong to us,” Stevens said, drawing laughs from the press corps located in another room.”

Stevens claimed that it was still Persons’ chair even though it has been in his home for the last seven years. “It’s not my chair, it’s not my chair,” Stevens sputtered. “It’s his chair, he put it in the house.”

Source: Politico, October 20th, 2008

Such a trivial matter right? That a massage chair can be part of the downfall of a man who wields so much sway over TRILLIONS of dollars. And yet, it is precisely because he has such considerable power that the senator (and the number of aides on his staff) should have been paying close attention to these matters. The non-disclosure of the chair demonstrates a pattern of non-disclosures by the senator. And Morris deftly exploited that as Stevens was on the stand:

“Then Bill Allen stole our furniture and put his own in the chalet,” Stevens said.

Morris caustically asked Stevens whether he called the police over Allen’s alleged furniture swap.

“It never crossed my mind to call the police,” Stevens responded.

Morris got Stevens to admit several times that he didn’t report either the massage chair or other alleged gifts from Allen and Persons. “Yes, I could have. No, I did not,” Stevens said in response to a Morris’ question.

Source: Politico, October 20th, 2008

The second thing to point out is the treatment of the senator by his friends and colleagues after his conviction. When he was convicted, rather than profess “love” for him, his colleagues in the Senate were clear about what they think he should do — resign. Oddly, one could even argue that the Republican Senators were harsher on their caucus colleague than the Democrats were from across the aisle.

The statement by Dem. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid said:

“This verdict is a personal tragedy for our colleague Ted Stevens, but it is an important reminder that no man is above the law. Sen. Stevens must now respect the outcome of the judicial process and the dignity of the United States Senate.”

Source: Politico; October 27th, 2008

By contrast, the Republican Minority Leader called for Stevens’ resignation one day after Stevens was convicted. And the statement by Sen. John Ensign, who is coordinating the re-election efforts of senate Republicans,  said all that the case can teach us. There was no mention of “personal tragedy” in Ensign’s statement; no vague call to “respect the dignity” of the Senate. Rather Ensign said:

“This is a sad day for the United States Senate. Ted Stevens served his constituents for over 40 years and I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace. Sen. Stevens had his day in court and the jury found he violated the public’s trust – as a result he is properly being held accountable. This is a reminder that no one is above the law.”

Source: Politico; October 27th, 2008

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8 thoughts on “American Case Study, Finale

  1. D – Before he was elected, I think it was possible to see Kwame Kilpatrick for what he was: a young man who knew from watching other African American male politicians and political figures that a suave manner and silky speech would get him whatever he needed.

    From the get-go, he reminded me of a thug and a hustler. There is just something about his manner, vague as that term is, that I have never trusted or could get behind. I watched him at Tavis Smiley’s black state of the union event couple years back, and I thought: its only a matter of time. The chumminess with other folks seems to go to his head – he was in the IN crowd now. I couldn’t have predicted the strippers or the affair or anything else, but none of these seem surprising to me. Yes, racial antipathies in Detroit are indeed part of why there was additional scrutiny to his leadership and how they managed to take him down. But he also gave everyone the guns, the bullets and taught them how to aim. Putting himself in the line of fire is his, and only his, responsibility. Jail time should be good for him. When he comes out, he’ll write a book which will come out right at the time for the next presidential election.

  2. With regard to Kwame Kilpatrick, I echo Longbench’s perspective/sentiments. Kwame Kilpatrick was/is nothing more than a common thug, irrespective, of his supposed political pedigree and lineage — with respect to his mother. Indeed, Kilpatrick typified the narcissistic hoodlum/ruffian who totally exploited the law and his position as the mayor of the city of Detroit. Consequently, he is totally deserving of his new residence at the Andrew C. Baird Facility. Comparatively, the Jamaican political culture has spawned and propagated numerous/many Kwame Kilpatrick’s, at various levels of politics within the body politic, including parliament, on both sides of the political divide.Interestingly, Kwame Kilpatrick’s improperties, malfeasance, and illegal political conduct pales when compared and contrasted to Jamaica’s elected political thugs, ruffians, and hoodlums masquerading as moral and political leaders of the society.One does not have to flesh out or expose the political dirty linens of politicians from both political parties here.Nonetheless, it is suffice to say that Jamaica’s political history post independence is replete and voluminous when it comes to corruption —-Jamaica most likely ranks with countries such as Nigeria and Mexico —-, and in essence the political culture is peopled with mainly kleptocrats and criminocrats ravaging and plundering the society for their own personal benefits, while espousing the latest vacuous rhetoric of economic development and economic growth slavishly picked up and borrowed from sundry international governmental organizations.

    Unlike the United States, where the rule of law is adhered to and respected. Jamaica functions at a completely different level, which in some instances is almost surreal. As posited on numerous occassions, Jamaican jurisprudence and the general rule of law are not applicable to certain elements, individuals, groups, strata within the society.Consequently, you will never see kleptocrats and criminocrats — irrespective of who they or the individual is — being hauled off to prison, in a somewhat similar manner to the United States and other law abiding and self respecting society that/which promulgates the rule of law.Instead, as a society we have degenerated into a thugocracy/criminocracy, where wrong is right and right is wrong. Indeed, an Orwellian nightmare. Nuff respect!!!

  3. Diatribalist, please be mindful of the statement/perspective/sentiment, that for certain elements of the Jamaican power elite — the political directorate and the oligarchy —, the law is not considered a shackle. Also, for other elements of the oligarchy, to operate, function, behave or adhere to the rule of law and its constraints, one is likely to get shafted. Nuh law nuh de a Jamdown!! A jus whu yu kno, an whu kno you star!!

  4. Yes, the media should have waited before calling the EAST, because of voting still going on — takin place — in the WEST. But Guess what!!? It is all about ratings star!!

  5. @ Esteban: To quote a felon – “I don’t think a Nielsen rating is worth the life of my children or your children.” The media weren’t going to hold their fire though — no catastrophes this time around.

  6. Diatribalist, apparently, there is a possibility or likelihood that Governor Sarah Palin —- the Wasilia hillbilly —- may end up getting Senator Ted Stevens’ senate seat when he is sentenced for his crimes. The likely scenario is, that, Stevens will definitely have to relinquish the position —- if indeed, he is the winner of the seat —- and most likely, Sarah Palin will resign from her position as Governor of Alaska, because of her over zealous political aspirations and ambitions, especially after having tasted/experienced the national spotlight as a vice-presidential candidate. In doing so, this will result in the current Lieutenant Governor becoming or assuming the responsibilities of the Governor of Alaska, and most likely in this capacity, the new Governor would be in a position to appoint Sarah Palin for the Alaska Senate to Congress.Wow, if this were to materialize or come to fruition, it will be interesting time for the right wing ecclesiastical bible thumping red neck elements of the Republican party — read Rethuglican party. Remember, Palin is also looking at 2012. It will be interesting to see what manifests itself politically, going forward, regarding the Alaska hillbilly, Sarah Palin.Nuff respect star!!

  7. Esteban: I have heard some political analysts say the same thing and it strikes me as such a crazy notion that a woman who has just spent so much money and time burnishing her “Washington outsider” brand would go to Washington as a senator to be a part of the minority party’s caucus.
    For better or for worse, Palin will remain in the national spotlight from the Governor’s chair in Alaska — because she wields real executive power there and can now recruit sharper aides from the lower 48 given her national ambitions.

    If she did go to Washington D.C. as a senator, she would be a “curiosity”, and quickly become marginalized and insignificant. Some of the people at cocktail parties in Georgetown who she mocked along the campaign trail would invite her to said cocktail parties and quiz her playfully on complex issues then leak rumors of how stupid her answers were. There is no upside to going to DC for Palin; she’d be 1) the most junior member 2) in the minority party 3) of a congress which has a record low approval rating.

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