Detroit mayor and former aide plead 'not guilty'

Kwame Kilpatrick
Kwame Kilpatrick
Christine Beatty
Christine Beatty

DETROIT (CBS/AP) -- Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick began his journey through the legal process on Tuesday, offering a not guilty plea during a brief arraignment hearing in a downtown courtroom.
The mayor and former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty appeared for separate hearings, neither of which lasted more than 10 minutes.

Not guilty pleas were entered on charges of perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office in a scandal that is threatening to prematurely end Kilpatrick's second term.

Both were released on personal bonds, but would have to pay $75,000 if they break them.

District Court Magistrate Steve Lockhart set June 9 as the date for their preliminary examinations.

When asked by one of his defense attorneys if he would agree to waive the 14-day rule for holding a preliminary exam, Kilpatrick shrugged his shoulders and said "Sure." It was the only word he or Beatty uttered in the courtroom.

Beatty kept her eyes focused down for much of her six-minute appearance, turning quickly at its conclusion to grab a bag and rush out of the room.

Six years after being sworn into office with hopes of revitalizing his troubled city, Kilpatrick is under increasing pressure to resign now that he's been booked on charges of lying about steamy text messages with his former chief of staff.

Both were accused of multiple counts of perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in a scandal that is threatening to prematurely end Kilpatrick's second term as mayor of Detroit, a city of 900,000 with deeply entrenched poverty made worse by the downturn in the auto industry.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced the charges after an investigation began in late January after the Detroit Free Press published excerpts from 14,000 text messages that were sent or received in 2002-03 from Beatty's city-issued pager.

The messages called into question testimony Kilpatrick and Beatty gave last August in a lawsuit filed by two police officers who said they were fired for investigating claims that the mayor used his security unit to cover up extramarital affairs.

In court, Kilpatrick and Beatty strongly denied having an intimate relationship. But the text messages revealed a flirty, sometimes sexually explicit, dialogue about where to meet and how to conceal their trysts.

Kilpatrick, 37, is married with three children. Beatty, also 37, was married at the time and has two children.

The city eventually agreed to pay $8.4 million to the two officers and a third former officer. Some of the charges brought against the mayor accuse him of agreeing to the settlement in an effort to keep the text messages from becoming public.

"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!"

On Oct. 16, 2002, Kilpatrick wrote: "I've been dreaming all day about having you all to myself for 3 days. Relaxing, laughing, talking, sleeping and making love."

All of the charges against the mayor are felonies. Under the city charter, a felony conviction would mean the mayor's immediate expulsion.

Worthy said her investigation was about violations of the public trust, and not "focused on lying about sex."

"I want to point out how important truthful witnesses are in the criminal justice system, how important it is not to breach the public trust and how important it is not to ruin people's lives who are simply doing their jobs," Worthy told the CBS News' The Early Show. "I wanted to point out how important it is not to mock the justice system."

"This investigation is about whether public dollars were used unlawfully, and more," she said.

Kilpatrick said Worthy's actions were disappointing, but not unexpected.

"This has been a very flawed process from the very beginning," he said. "However, at the same time, I recognize that this is merely a first step in a process that I believe in, that's grounded in a presumption of innocence that is guaranteed to each and every American."

Worthy said the investigation was ongoing and other people could be charged. She said she has had conversations with the U.S. attorney, but would not elaborate.

In announcing the charges, Worthy delivered a 14-minute lecture on the oath that all witnesses take before testifying in court.

"Even children understand that lying is wrong," she said. "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.

"And lying cannot be tolerated even if a judge or jury sees through it."

Mayer Morganroth, Beatty's attorney, called Worthy's comments full of "assertions and conjecture."

"I was sort of stunned by the prosecutor laying out the charges in the way that she did," he said, noting Beatty's right to a fair and unbiased trial. "It sounded more like a closing argument to a jury."

Kilpatrick's lawyer, Dan Webb, said he plans to attack the text messages and ask a judge to prevent them from being admitted as evidence.

"It's almost unheard of in this country for a prosecutor to take testimony in a civil case and then bring perjury charges, Webb told The Early Show. "Perjury charges are almost exclusively reserved for criminal cases."

"I am as certain as I stand here that the initial production of those text messages in fact were illegal under the law," Webb said.

Controversy has surrounded Kilpatrick since his 2001 election. Embraced by many residents for his boldness and confidence, Kilpatrick, then 31, embodied the new black politician and wore a diamond stud earring that helped earn him the unofficial title of "Hip-Hop Mayor." His mother is Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick is the youngest mayor ever elected in Detroit and the city's first sitting mayor charged with a crime, reports CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano.

During his first four years, he caused a furor over his use of his city-issued credit card for expensive travel, the city's lease of a luxury Lincoln Navigator for his wife and unsubstantiated allegations of a wild party involving his security team and strippers at the mayor's mansion.

At the start of his second term, Kilpatrick vowed to not make the same mistakes and announced a residential redevelopment along Detroit's dormant riverfront, hosted a Super Bowl that spotlighted the city's renewal efforts and initiated other improvements. He had been expected to seek a third term in 2009.

Despite calls from the City Council and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox to step down, Kilpatrick has said he will not resign.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News separately called for Kilpatrick's resignation in editorials posted Monday night on their Web sites.

"Our call for him to resign has nothing to do with the ultimate verdict in court, whether innocent or guilty," Free Press vice president and editor Paul Anger said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. "The reason we are calling for the mayor to resign is to spare Detroit the distraction and pain of weeks, months and possibly years of turmoil with a mayor who won't be able to focus on his job and a lingering, hurtful spectacle in front of the country."

The Detroit News said the "charges place a cloud over Kilpatrick that greatly reduce his effectiveness."

Forcing him to step down now would punish Kilpatrick before he has had his day in court, Webb said.

"If you look at the actual testimony given in court, there is no question and answer given that was false, and we'll let a jury decide this," Webb said.

Posted by KO

The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.