Detroit— Throughout his six-month trial, Kwame Kilpatrick didn’t speak on his own behalf. But facing a lengthy prison sentence Thursday, he broke his silence and delivered a 30-minute address that was, at times, apologetic, introspective, defiant and fascinating.
Wearing his khaki prison clothes, Detroit’s ex-mayor dwarfed the podium before U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds and spoke — at times referring to sheets of legal paper and, more often, speaking off the cuff. His speech touched on various subjects, but after quickly addressing the judge, he turned to his legal dilemma.
“I respect the jury’s verdict,” he said. “I think Your Honor knows that I disagree with it in terms of the specific things that I was found guilty on, but I respect the verdict and I also respect the American justice system.”
To the people of Detroit, who Kilpatrick served as mayor from 2002 to 2008, he said: “I think that we’ve been stuck in this town for a long time dealing with me, but I’m ready to leave so the city can move on. The people here are suffering, they’re hurting, and a great deal of that hurt I accept responsibility for. I’ve apologized to everyone who will listen, but it never seems to get heard.”
On being elected mayor, the only job he said he ever really wanted: “When I won this job, and after spending a couple of months into the job, six months, I hated it. I absolutely hated it. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do but, particularly in the black community ... men don’t cry, they don’t bow down. You go outside every day and you look confident. ...
“The pressure of this job is enormous — managing the emotions, managing the tension, managing the city with no money is hard every single day ... It was this pride, yes, and this ego that took over that I couldn’t lose.”
On his affair with staffer Christine Beatty, which led to his lying under oath: “...in 2008 I lied about an affair because I was living a lie ... and in that moment I didn’t accept responsibility for it. I was mad at people for finding out.”
Addressing the fallout of that affair: “I significantly beat down the spirit, the energy and the vibrance (sic) of what was going on in Detroit at the time ... People lost faith and trust in the leadership and, also, once you lie about an affair, and once you’re a liar and an adulterer, everything else is perceived the same way.”
On the impact on his three sons: “In the city of Detroit, seven out of ten African America boys grow up now don’t have a father, don’t have a relationship with their father and there are three more that won’t now ...”
He also touched on the scandal’s impact on his mother, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.
“My mom, who was an incredible public servant, she lost her job because of her son,” he said. “Her son that she raised and fed and taught and made do his homework, killed her career.”
Near the end of his address, Kilpatrick became emotional and touched on his hopes for the city he once led.
“I want the city to be great again,” he said. “I want the city to have the same feeling it had in 2006 when the Super Bowl was here ... where everybody felt like this was their town.”