In the early morning hours of August 2, 2011, the former mayor of Detroit walked out of a Michigan prison and into the glare of the media.
He made no comments and quietly walked into a waiting car. He had served just over 14 months for violating terms of parole from a previous stint in jail — he had admitted to lying about an adulterous affair with his chief of staff, revealed when thousands of text messages were made public.
Age-old story with a modern twist
His downfall was an age-old story with a modern twist. Kilpatrick, the youngest mayor of Detroit, had been accused of corruption, but what earned him 99 days in jail was his admission that he’d lied when asked about his relationship with Christine Beatty, a high school classmate who later became his chief of staff.
Kilpatrick admitted to a judge on September 4, 2008, that he lied under oath during a whistle-blower case. He lied not only about his relationship with Beatty, but also about whether he had known a police officer was looking at activities on the mayor’s staff prior to the officer’s firing. Much of the evidence against Kilpatrick was revealed through text messages outlined in a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Detroit Free Press.
As part of his parole in that case, Kilpatrick was to pay the city of Detroit $1 million in restitution. When a judge ruled the embattled ex-mayor may have squandered or hid thousands of dollars and failed to make timely payments, Kilpatrick was ordered to serve time in prison.
After his release, Kilpatrick returned to his family in Texas, where he relocated after leaving Detroit during the scandal. The former mayor negotiated more flexible terms with a Texas court and now pays $160 a month on a 448-year plan to pay back the city of Detroit.
One thing lockup didn’t change: Kilpatrick granted multiple interviews upon his release, touting his book, “Surrendered! The Rise and Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick.” Profits from book sales and speaking engagements should go into an account to be partially funneled to restitution payments, a local judge ordered. So far the publisher has not put any money into that account.
Following his release, Kilpatrick has been praising the strength of his wife Carlita for standing by his side, and says of his mistakes, “I wish sometimes the ability to be smart and to be righteous overwhelmed our ability to hide and be in fear and be stupid.”
His August release may only be temporary: Kilpatrick and two other former officials face federal corruption charges of racketeering, extortion, bribery, fraud, and tax evasion for an alleged “pay to play” scheme they ran while working as city leaders.
So, as one chapter of the Kilpatrick saga ends, another continues — all this as many residents of the beleaguered city of Detroit feel more than ready to put it all behind them.
Ron Recinto is the Detroit editor for Yahoo! Local. Prior to joining Yahoo!, Ron was a print journalist and an online editor for more than 15 years at publications including the Detroit Free Press, the Charlotte Observer, and Red Herring magazine.