(WXYZ) - 7 Action News Investigator Scott Lewis landed an exclusive on-camera interview with Kwame Kilpatrick.
The ex-mayor has not talked on camera for months, but he squared off with Scott Lewis, against the advice of his lawyer, just days before his federal racketeering trial gets under way.
Lewis quizzed the once-powerful politician on a wide variety of topics and you'll hear all of it between now and his September 6 trial date. The interview was a cloak-and-dagger affair, done in Detroit, under the noses of dozens of other reporters.
Last week Kwame Kilpatrick sat down with forty reporters at the St. Regis hotel for a "no holds barred" question and answer session. But was there one big restriction; still pictures only, no video.
While Kilpatrick was wrapping up with reporters from the National Association of Black Journalists, Lewis was nervously pacing in a private hallway nearby.
Kilpatrick promised him an exclusive one-on-one interview, on camera. But Lewis was getting worried. He wondered whether he could really pull off the secret rendezvous with forty other journalists in the building? Kilpatrick was 15 minutes late, but he did show up to answer Lewis' questions just days before the start of a trial that could send him to prison for up to 30 years.
"Are you worried?" Lewis asked
"Well I mean the trial could also exonerate me from all that I've been under for the past few years. So I see it as the ultimate opportunity for freedom. So, I'm, I'm not worried I'm excited about having the opportunity to present the truth in front of the people, even if it's hard for the people to take after all they've heard," Kilpatrick replied.
Kilpatrick told the NABJ reporters that he doesn't think he can get a fair trial in Detroit. During our one-on-one, he expounded on that.
"People in this community, I don't believe they can honestly say they don't have an opinion about me, and they're not entrenched in that opinion. There are people who absolutely hate me and there are people who absolutely love me. And it's going to be tough to get a jury here," said the former Detroit Mayor.
Kilpatrick pointed out that there are lots of people suffering in Michigan, losing their jobs, their homes and their benefits. He said he feared that there could be at attempt to pin some of that on him.
"You have turmoil in this state and in this region that you haven't seen since the 1970's and 80's. And, in the midst of that, you're dragging this guy out almost in a perp walk type atmosphere and saying, 'hey, judge him and it's all his fault'."
Kilpatrick said whether they love or hate him, most people want America to work and in America you are innocent until proven guilty. He said just doesn't believe that most people in this case will be able to put their biases aside.
Our exclusive interview came just days after Kilpatrick suffered a setback in court.
The judge refused to let him fire his attorney over a conflict of interest and accused the former mayor of attempting to delay the trial, which he vehemently denied. Kilpatrick also hinted that he will make another stab at firing his attorney.
"This is the fight of my life, you know, this is not like a campaign. This is not like anything I've been to before. And you want to know that everybody on your team is in the same fight with you. And of course I think, you know, the honorable judge was wrong and I'm still seeing if there are other options I can employ," said Kilpatrick.
So why did Kwame Kilpatrick agree to talk only to Scott Lewis on camera? There's a story behind that and much more that you'll be hearing about in the coming days.
7 Action News has its entire Investigative team is on this story. For the most complete, up-to-the-minute balanced coverage of the trial and events leading up to it, stay with 7 Action News and WXYZ.com.