From rising Democratic star to convicted felon, Kilpatrick's fall may not be over

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Kwame Kilpatrick is a polarizing powerhouse. But whether you love him or hate him, many agree the charismatic speaker could hold an audience in the palm of his hand.

While Kilpatrick's gift to galvanize a crowd may be one of his greatest assets, it was his words that also led to his downfall.

He went from standing arm in arm with future President Barack Obama to spending months behind prison bars. His flame once burned bright, but ended in disgrace with an apology and a promise to return.

At the age of just 31, Kilpatrick defeated popular Detroit City Council President Gil Hill and became a rising star in the Democratic party. His potential for Detroit seemed unlimited and he had many believing the same for the city.

"It's time for all of us to rise up, to rise up to rise up…and start our future right here, right now," bellowed Kilpatrick to a rousing crowd at his 2002 inauguration.

During that same speech, the newly-elected mayor touted himself as the ultimate family man and statesman.

"There is no way I can be a leader of the city of Detroit if I don't lead in my own house," said Kilpatrick.

But just months into his first term, Kilpatrick seemed seduced by the trappings of power. He traveled with rock-star-style entourages, a security detail more appropriate for a president than a mayor.

News reports exposed Kilpatrick for charging pricey meals and exotic hotel rooms on his city-issued credit card. But after the 7 Action News Investigators exposed the pricey red Lincoln Navigator leased for Kilpatrick's wife for more than $24,000 a year, it became the symbol of excess at a time when the mayor was asking others to tighten their belts.

"But these are difficult times, they demand sacrifice…" he said in a 2005 State of the City address.

When reporters pressed Kilpatrick on his own excesses, he lost it. He had his security detail pin one 7 Action News Investigator against the wall, and took the microphone of another reporter and threw it.

The mayor and his staff weren't the only ones playing kill the messenger.  Who could forget the anti-media plea his mom made during her son's second run for mayor.

"Turn off your TV, y'all!" shouted former U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.

"Don't let them do this to your 'alls boy!"

Despite the negative press, Kilpatrick surprised everyone as he inched past Freman Hendrix to win a second term.

One story that wouldn't go away - and haunted both terms - was the fabled Manoogian mansion party. Rumors lingered that Kilpatrick's wife assaulted stripper Tamara Greene.

"We could never prove it," says Detroit Free Press reporter Jim Schaefer.

"Couldn't find anything to substantiate it…the more we looked at it the bigger the conspiracy required to make it real…," says former Detroit News reporter Darci McConnell.

Kilpatrick also insisted it never happened. But as the scandal swirled, Kilpatrick fled to Washington D.C., where he adamantly told 7 Action News in an exclusive interview.

"I didn't whore around on my wife," he said.  

He showed similar disdain when asked under oath in 2007 about an affair with his then chief of staff Christine Beatty.

"I think it's absurd to assert that every woman that works with a man is a whore," Kilpatrick testified. "I think it's disrespectful not just to Christine Beatty but to women who do a professional job that they do every single day."

Those words would later come back to haunt him.

"This has been a very difficult time for my wife and my family," said a contrite Kilpatrick, on live TV.

He wound up apologizing for the affair with Beatty which became evident from text messages published in the Detroit Free Press.

But what Kilpatrick did was more than embarrassing. It was a crime.

"We charge Kwame Kilpatrick with perjury," announced Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy at a press conference in early 2008, following a lengthy investigation into the text messages and Kilpatrick's trial testimony denying the affair. 

Months later Kilpatrick later came clean and cut a deal.

"I lied under oath," he said, and agreed to pay $1 million in restitution, spend 120 days in jail and resign from office. But on his way out the door, he made this infamous promise.

"You done set me up for a comeback," he said.

The text message scandal cost taxpayers millions, tarnished Detroit's reputation nationally and left many people angry at Kilpatrick.

During an exclusive interview, 7 Action News Investigator Scott Lewis asked Kilpatrick, "What I hear them say, Mr. Kilpatrick, is that you had everything and you could have turned this city around and they feel like you let them down?"

"They're right," answered Kilpatrick. "I mean it's no long answer. Those people are right."

Things went from bad to worse for Kilpatrick. He spent 14 months in prison for missing restitution payments and lying to the judge about his assets. He is still on parole. And now, he faces federal charges that could land him behind bars for decades.

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