Kilpatrick Plea Brings Relief For Detroiters

Kwame Kilpatrick accepted a plea deal in a perjury case yesterday that will require him to step down as mayor of Detroit and serve time in jail. Some see it as the first sign of closure to a complicated political drama. Detroit councilwoman Sheila Cockrel talks about the effect of this case on Detroit and its future.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

Now we bring you an update to a big political story out of Detroit. The city's mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick accepted a plea deal yesterday to settle charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. The deal required him to step down as mayor, serve time in jail and pay up to a million dollars in restitution. Many in Detroit see it as a sign of closure in a complicated political drama. Joining us now to talk about how this case went and the settlement and how it could affect Detroit is City Council woman Sheila Cockrel. Councilwoman, thank you for joining us.

Ms. SHEILA COCKREL (Councilwoman, Detroit): Good morning.

AMOS: Let's start by listening to part of Kilpatrick's televised address to Detroit last night.

Former Mayor KWAME KILPATRICK (Detroit): I want to emphasize tonight that I take full responsibility for my own actions for the poor judgment that they reflected. I wish with all my heart that we could turn back the hands of time and tell that young man to make better choices. But I can't.

AMOS: Again, that's Detroit Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. Councilwoman, even with all the troubles this mayor and this case has caused this city, it must have been quite painful to hear him say I'm sorry and goodbye? Correct?

Ms. COCKREL: What was the last part?

AMOS: That it was painful to hear him say I'm sorry.

Ms. COCKREL: Oh absolutely but I guess it is painful but it is also, I don't know. The term I guess I might use is infuriating because at the same time that that is being said near the end of the speech, the mayor blames people for why he had trouble with the, you know blaming the governor and as a matter of fact, the reality is, it is decisions and choices that he made that resulted in him facing the situation that he is in today.

AMOS: So you are a little suspicious of that, I'm sorry.

Ms. COCKREL: Well I just think you know that you know the human language would not include attacking the governor which is part of what was done last night in his speech.

AMOS: How are your constituents reacting to this?

Ms. COCKREL: I can tell you that in the beginning there were many many voices who were very at least, wanted everyone to like wait and like give the mayor the benefit of the doubt. I can tell you that in the last few months the message I heard repeatedly and regularly from Detroiters was hang in there, don't give up. Take it a step at a time. Please just remember, you know that the city is counting on the council to get us through this. So there is, I'm sure there are undercurrents of many issues, that are part of Detroit's history. But at the end of the day, Detroiters have reached the vast majority of the view that this mayor was fatally damaged and could not govern the city of Detroit.

AMOS: The Detroit City Council will play a big role in moving this city forward, the current council president Ken Cockrel will become acting mayor. Does that settle the city after the mayor goes to jail?

Ms. COCKREL: Well to be very candid with you, we have an ongoing federal investigation that does include some members of the city council. So while there is the sense I think of, you know, the tragedy of the situation but relief that this part has ended, to be very honest with you, you know there is a major federal investigation into contracting processes and you know, allegations of potential bribery of individual, some council members in exchange for the vote. That shoe is yet to drop.

AMOS: So you think that the city has got some more troubles ahead?

Ms. COCKREL: I think we have challenges but this is a tough strong city. People in this city have weathered and met many many challenges over its, you know hundreds of years of history and we believe we can meet this challenge as well, but I would not want to say, oh yes everything is resolved. You know Mayor Kilpatrick's out, now you know, we are entering Nirvana. That is not accurate.

AMOS: Thank you very much for joining us.

Ms. COCKREL: Certainly.

AMOS: Detroit councilwoman Sheila Cockrel joined us from South Field, Michigan. You can read up on the scandal surrounding Kwame Kilpatrick and learn more about how this all began on our website. Go to npr.org and click on tell me more pages.

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Kilpatrick Accepts Plea Deal, Resigns As Mayor

Christine Beatty, former chief of staff to Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Christine Beatty, former chief of staff to Kilpatrick, looks on in Wayne County Circuit Court as the mayor accepts a plea deal on Thursday. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has accepted a plea deal requiring him to resign from office immediately, pay $1 million in restitution, surrender his law license and serve four months in jail related to a yearlong political and legal storm that has rocked the nation's 11th-largest city and has become the subject of national scrutiny.

Earlier this year, Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, were charged with multiple felonies, including perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and misconduct related to a police whistleblower case that cost the city $8.4 million.

Perjury charges filed against the second-term mayor stem from sworn testimonies given by Kilpatrick and Beatty last year during proceedings in the whistleblower case, in which they denied allegations of an extramarital affair between the two. (Details of the affair were later uncovered through text message records obtained and published by the Detroit Free Press.)

Today in a televised courtroom appearance, Kilpatrick admitted to giving a flawed testimony.

"I lied under oath ... I did so with the intent to mislead the court and jury, to impede and obstruct the disposition of justice," read the mayor, once considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, from a statement.

Under conditions of his plea deal, Kilpatrick agreed not to pursue public office for five years and will relinquish his state pension to the City of Detroit.

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley discusses details of Kilpatrick's plea deal and what it means for City Hall.

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