March 10, 2009 at 10:07 am

Texts cast light on Manoogian probe

City's top lawyer talked to AG Cox

Kilpatrick )

DETROIT -- Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's top lawyer suggested that Attorney General Mike Cox was going to find there was no Manoogian Mansion party before the probe even began, according to text messages released Monday.

That and other newly released messages, sent on city-owned pagers, provide a window into how Kilpatrick ran his administration, revealing that he and his appointees and relatives were concerned about spinning scandals, grabbing perks and racial issues.

The messages, released under a judge's order, also provide more details of an affair between Kilpatrick and former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty and other extramarital flirtations.

Cox "called me (Saturday) and asked who we would rather be cleared by him or (Wayne County Prosecutor Mike) Duggan," former city Corporation Counsel Ruth Carter texted Kilpatrick on May 19, 2003, the day Cox announced he would conduct his own investigation. "I said him."

Cox dismissed as an "urban legend" rumors that Kilpatrick hosted an out-of-control party that ended when his wife, Carlita, beat up a stripper who was later murdered. Cox has since faced allegations from cops and others claiming he cut short the State Police investigation. He confirmed he called Carter before he announced his probe but denied telling her it would clear the former mayor.

"I don't know why it's written that way, but it's pretty clear if you look at it that I wanted to do the right kind of investigation," Cox said.

Cox launched the probe after former Deputy Chief Gary Brown alleged he was fired for investigating the rumored party and wrongdoings by the mayor's bodyguards. The city later paid $8.4 million to Brown and former officers Harold Nelthrope and Walt Harris, who claimed they were punished for investigating the party and other wrongdoings.

Carter sent Kilpatrick another text message saying she spoke to Cox again and that she and Cox would coordinate the probe.

Cox said he was thrust into the investigation when Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced the Michigan State Police would investigate allegations about the Manoogian party and problems with the mayor's executive protection unit; and Cox would handle any charges resulting from the investigation.

Cox intervened after the City Council asked for a federal investigation, and Duggan, Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans, and Michigan State Police Commander Tad Sturdivant were all were seen as too close to Kilpatrick. Sturdivant was even rumored to have attended the party.

Jeffrey Collins, then the U.S. attorney, could not investigate because he was a friend of Gary Brown's, Cox said.

Cox pointed out that when it was reported that the State Police would conduct the investigation, backed up by the U.S. Attorney's Office, both Kilpatrick and Beatty reacted with text messages that said "Great."

When it was announced that Cox would conduct his own investigation, Kilpatrick sent a text message that said, "I don't know about this Cox yet," the attorney general noted.

It's standard for an investigator to call a subject's attorney prior to the start of an investigation and standard for that attorney to coordinate one end of the investigation, in terms of setting up interviews and getting requested documents, he said.

Carter couldn't be reached for comment.

Messages were under seal

The text messages originally were introduced under seal by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy almost six months after she charged Kilpatrick and Beatty with perjury when text messages released to the media showed they had lied under oath about their sexual affair during a 2007 whistle-blower trial involving former police officers.

The batch released Monday was introduced by prosecutors to prove Beatty and Kilpatrick authored the messages. The release of the messages closes one chapter in the long-running saga, although there are several issues still pending, including investigations by Worthy and the FBI into the Kilpatrick administration.

Kilpatrick and Beatty later pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Kilpatrick served 99 days in the Wayne County Jail, while Beatty remains in the jail. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday on a request for her early release.

Brown, who worked for three mayors, said Kilpatrick was "by far the worst" he'd seen during his career.

"There was a culture of corruption that started at the top and permeated down throughout the administration, through every department," Brown said. "There was a sense of entitlement like nothing I've ever seen."

Part of that alleged sense of entitlement was revealed when first lady Carlita Kilpatrick complained she wasn't getting a city-leased Lincoln Navigator fast enough.

"Any word on my Navigator?" she asked in a June 12, 2002, text message. The city's leasing of a Lincoln Navigator for Kilpatrick's wife became a major controversy.

By Sept. 18, 2002, the mayor's wife still hadn't gotten the Navigator, and asked "Can I get my truck before the 2004s (models) are out?"

Several months later, Kilpatrick showed that he wasn't about to be bullied by the City Council, who had tried to serve a subpoena on his staffers: "This is not a council/mayor form of Gov't. It's Strong Mayor! Damn them!"

Racial issues surface

Kilpatrick announced during his 2008 State of the City address that he and his family had faced racial slurs. But text messages suggest racial issues inside Kilpatrick's circle.

Bobby Ferguson, a longtime friend of Kilpatrick and recipient of several city contracts, wrote on June 1, 2003, "Was the (island) cool, did (Detroit) turnit out(?)" -- an apparent reference to that year's annual Detroit Regional Chamber Leadership Conference, which was held on Mackinac Island May 29-31.

Kilpatrick replied, "We (expletive) the white folks heads up. We were focused."

Kilpatrick's aides also discussed how to put Brown in jail, shortly after his May 2003 firing.

"How are we going to get this guy prosecuted?" Miller texted Carter about Brown, who was fired after probing wrongdoing by Kilpatrick, including the rumored Manoogian Mansion party.

"Slander, no question!" replied Carter.

"Would Mike Duggan do it?" asked Miller, referring to the then Wayne County prosecutor who now heads the Detroit Medical Center.

"Technically, yes, but he may be skittery," Carter replied. "He thinks we should play ball with Brown to which I replied NO (expletive) CHANCE!"

"What does he mean play ball?" Miller asked.

"Pay him (Brown)!" Carter replied. "Again I said NO CHANCE. That would surely look like a cover up."

'Pound of flesh'

The text messages show that after Cox faced criticism for clearing Kilpatrick on the Manoogian allegation, Kilpatrick aides feared the attorney general was looking to extract a "pound of flesh" from them on a separate issue.

The Transportation Security Administration confiscated a loaded gun belonging Police Chief Jerry Oliver on Oct. 18, 2003, after the firearm was found in baggage he had checked for a flight but didn't declare.

Oliver resigned later that month.

He subsequently entered a no-contest plea in a Romulus courtroom to a misdemeanor charge of possessing an unlicensed handgun. Oliver also paid a $250 fine.

"The problem is the AG is chomping at the bit to have a piece of this," Carter wrote, referring to Attorney General Mike Cox. "(I) can probably talk (Duggan) down, but I'm not sure about AG.

"Chief did not sound good, nor did Mike," Carter wrote. "He was completely surprised by AG call. I'm thinking this may be AG (and Michigan State Police's) pound of flesh."

Carter later wrote, "Mr. Mayor, I spoke to Duggan, he still wants to charge. He spoke to Cox and he will let it go. Mike is aware you are REALLY displeased."