March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Judge rips Kilpatrick, OKs Texas move

Kwame Kilpatrick, seen at his Texas home last month, will earn $20,000 monthly in accelerated pay at Covisint for six months. (Khampha Bouaphanh / Special to The Detroit News)

DETROIT -- Wayne County Circuit Judge David Groner on Tuesday blessed Kwame Kilpatrick's bid to transfer his probation to Texas, where he has a six-figure job lined up at Covisint, a division of Detroit-based software giant Compuware.

One day after the most scandalous text messages yet were released to the public, Kilpatrick began the second act of his life, securing permission to move and filing a $100 million lawsuit against a company that released the messages.

But Groner and prosecutors left the former mayor with a parting shot, excoriating him for previously unreported cash gifts that Kilpatrick used to pay for a $35,000 2009 Cadillac Escalade and being slow to repay $1 million in restitution.

"What concerns this court is defendant's ability to secure benefits or funds as gifts to purchase cars, travel in private planes, and rent a home in an affluent Texas neighborhood," Groner wrote.

It's unclear when Kilpatrick will leave Detroit for Southlake, Texas, the upscale suburb where his wife, Carlita, and family have lived since December. But court papers indicate he had "essential" business meetings today in the Dallas offices of his new employer.

Groner noted that Kilpatrick has received cash advances of $18,300 for his first six months for rent from an undisclosed source; accelerated pay of $20,000 a month from Covisint for the first six months on the job, where his base pay is $120,000 a year; a $26,000 gift from his wife; and a $9,000 gift from another undisclosed source.

Groner ordered Kilpatrick to pay $10,500 in cash restitution to the city by March 20, sacrifice his $7,500 bond and begin paying $6,000 a month toward the restitution Kilpatrick agreed to pay last fall as part of a plea bargain in the text-message scandal. He served 99 days in jail for three felonies.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who jailed the onetime mayor, supported Groner's decision, saying it's time Kilpatrick began repaying the city.

"Defendant Kilpatrick's seeming reluctance to take payment of restitution seriously has been deeply troubling," Worthy said in the written statement. "We want to make sure that he abides by the terms and conditions of his probation, especially the condition of restitution. Now that a court order is in place we are satisfied that it will insure payment of the money he owes to the city of Detroit. That was our only point."

But scrounging money for restitution wouldn't be an issue if Kilpatrick's suit against the city's then-text message provider is successful.

Kilpatrick's lawyers on Tuesday filed a 10-page complaint in a Mississippi court, alleging SkyTel Communications, "intentionally and willfully" violated Kilpatrick's "privacy rights."

The suit alleges the company violated federal law by releasing text messages to an attorney for former Detroit police officers who sued Kilpatrick and the city. The officers alleged they were fired for investigating wrongdoing by the mayoral bodyguards and refusing to back off a probe that could have exposed an affair between Kilpatrick and then-chief of staff Christine Beatty.

The cops received an $8.4 million settlement when messages emerged that proved Kilpatrick and Beatty lied on the stand when they denied an affair or firing the cops because of the investigation.

The messages later formed the crux of Worthy's obstruction of justice case against Kilpatrick and Beatty that jailed both. Beatty remains jailed.

The lawsuit was filed in Mississippi, where SkyTel is based. Even though city policy while Kilpatrick was mayor was that text messages are public documents, Florida attorney C.K. Hoffler said she's confident she can prove the ex-mayor was wronged.

"We are asking for $100 million. Minimum," said Hoffler, who is working with Florida attorney Willie Gary on the lawsuit.

Repeated calls to SkyTel were not returned. The company was sold last summer to Velocita Wireless for $7.5 million.

Hoffler said she could not discuss Kilpatrick's plan for his new life in Texas.

You can reach Doug Guthrie at dguthrie@detnews.com">dguthrie@detnews.com.