DETROIT — Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick wearily thanked supporters for helping her squeak through a surprisingly tough primary battle for her seat in the U.S. Congress.
Three days later, Kwame Kilpatrick fidgeted through an emergency appeal to decide if the embattled Detroit mayor would spend more nights alone in a jail cell.
For Detroit’s most prominent political family, the past week exposed the six-term Congresswoman’s Achilles heel — her son, and the continuation of his fall from grace.
“I’m sure that the mayor’s family is going to be very happy to have him back home,” defense attorney James Thomas said moments after Kwame Kilpatrick was arraigned last Friday on new charges of assaulting and obstructing investigators working on his felony perjury case.
“This was obviously very, very stressful for them, and I don’t pretend to tell you what it is they are thinking at this time.”
When Kilpatrick returned to work Monday, running the city of just over 900,000 people, he wore an electronic tether on his right ankle. The device was ordered as part of a new bond restricting his travel to the three-county area surrounding Detroit.
His arrest, booking and jail stay last week followed 36th District Judge Ronald Giles’ ruling that Kilpatrick violated his original bond July 23 by traveling across the Detroit River to meet with Canadian officials over a tunnel deal designed to fill a $65 million hole in Detroit’s budget. Kilpatrick failed to alert the court to the trip.
The Windsor Star newspaper reported last Friday an unidentified Canadian businessman spotted Kilpatrick two days earlier with his sons at a water park on the Ontario side of Niagara Falls. Kilpatrick attorney James Parkman told The Detroit News early last Saturday that he couldn’t confirm the report but planned to discuss it with Kilpatrick over the weekend.
Parkman said the mayor had been approved by the court for a business trip to upper New York state in mid-July, and the Niagara Falls stop may have been related.
In a last ditch attempt to avoid jail for the July 23 border crossing, Kilpatrick profusely apologized to Giles last Thursday.
“I have been living in an incredible state of pressure and scrutiny for seven months during this time period,” Kilpatrick said. “I’ve always been on time. I’ve always listened to my attorneys in everything that we are doing. I hear Your Honor’s rulings, especially the one that was happening here the last time we were here.
“I’ve also been trying to be a good mayor at the same time, even with incredible odds and incredible scrutiny.”
Kilpatrick continues to feel repercussions from a text-messaging sex scandal plaguing his administration since late January. Excerpts of intimate text messages left on the pager of then-Chief of Staff Christine Beatty contradicted testimony both gave during a whistle-blowers’ lawsuit.
The Wayne County prosecutor’s office charged both in March with perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice. They are accused of lying about a romantic relationship and their roles in the firing of a police official.
The coming weeks appear to offer no relief. Today, he’s scheduled to be arraigned in Wayne County Circuit Court in connection with the perjury charge. The following day, Kilpatrick is to appear in district court on the assault and obstructing charges levied last week by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.
Detroit City Council-led forfeiture of office proceedings are planned to start Aug. 18 and Gov. Jennifer Granholm has set aside Sept. 3 as a day in which she will preside over a hearing to remove the mayor for misconduct in office.
“I’m hoping you will be able to have the mayor step down,” Detroit resident JoAnn Jackson told the city council during a hearing to approval rules for forfeiture proceedings. “I feel the mayor has not had the best interests of the city. What happened [last Thursday] put the icing on the cake. He cannot do any city business behind bars.”
His mother’s road is less fraught with pitfalls, though she acknowledged late in the primary campaign that her son’s legal woes were becoming a hindrance.
The victory was agonizingly close for someone who had rarely faced a challenge before. Cheeks Kilpatrick trailed in early returns from suburban communities outside Detroit, but rebounded in the city, her political base.
Kilpatrick received 39.1 percent of the vote, compared with former state Rep. Mary Waters’ 36 percent. State Sen. Martha Scott had 24.9 percent.
The numbers offered evidence of the deep divide among voters, many of whom wanted to turn the primary into a referendum on her son’s conduct.
Still, she is expected to easily win in the November general election in the heavily Democratic 13th Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a six-term lawmaker from Detroit and the mother of embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, leads the Congressional Black Caucus and has faced little opposition since she was first elected to Congress in 1996. More »