Kilpatrick, ex-aide speak out on affair, text-message scandal

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
Kwame Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty in 2001, after Kilpatrick won his mayoral election.

More than a decade after the affair that spawned a text messaging scandal, the downfall of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and chief of staff Christine Beatty, and jail stints for both, they are detailing the liaison in a national podcast.

The pair was interviewed for "Crimetown," a series produced in partnership with Gimlet Media broadcast on Spotify. Each season focuses on the "culture of crime" in a new city.

The current installments have focused on Detroit. Several episodes revolve around Kilpatrick's tenure, and the recently aired 14th installment delves into how the city native and its youngest mayor became involved with Beatty, sparking a scandal that forced him from office in 2008.

Kilpatrick notes in the podcast that he and Beatty were close friends as youths and dated briefly as teens but, on the advice of those in his inner circle, split before he attended Florida A&M University. That's where he met his future wife, Carlita, with whom he had three sons.

Beatty went on to marry her high school sweetheart, Lou, and have two children. 

Still, his feelings for Beatty "never went away," Kilpatrick said in the "Crimetown" interview.

When the former state legislator ran for mayor, he tapped her to join his campaign. After his win in 2001, while cleaning the campaign headquarters on a moonlit night, Kilpatrick said, the relationship shifted.

"... We were looking at the river, overlooking everything. It kind of hit us both at the same time that we won this race. This is crazy. How we do this?" he said in the interview. "So we were laughing, we were crying. And I hugged her and I kissed her. And it was like, 'Whoa, what was that?' You know, because it caught us so off guard. ...

"When I tell you it was one of those moments like in movies where the moon is perfect over the Detroit River, the snow was dancing across the — you know it was one of those moments where ... you needed a T.S. Eliot, a much better writer than I can do it to really describe what kind of moment that was, it was powerful. It was a very powerful moment."

The affair evolved through their long hours working together, often late into the night, in a "Bonnie and Clyde-type atmosphere," Kilpatrick recalled in the interview.

"Crimetown" reported how, over time, his confidants became aware of the affair and Beatty wrestled with guilt over deceiving Carlita Kilpatrick.

"The lie ... that I had to stand in this woman's face in her house and know that this was going on — I never could reconcile that for me. That, that literally ... ugh. I mean I was one of those, how do you look yourself in the mirror and do that?" she said in the podcast.  "... It was like what kind of woman are you? Like, I had those kind of conversations in my head with myself."

Beatty maintains the tryst "wasn't some random affair."

"... I was in love with him," she tells "Crimetown."  "He loved me — again. I never speak for him, I speak for me, but I know that he loved me. I'm not stupid."

The pair ended the romance around 2005, Kilpatrick said in the interview.

Both Beatty and Kilpatrick eventually denied they were ever involved while testifying in a whistleblower trial for former Detroit Deputy police Chief Gary Brown, who claimed he was fired in 2003 for investigating alleged wrongdoing by the mayor and his security team.  

In 2007, a jury awarded Brown and police Officer Harold Nelthrope $6.5 million in the case. After vowing an appeal, Kilpatrick abruptly changed course and settled for $8.4 million.

In January 2008, the Detroit Free Press published text messages showing the romance was real and that Beatty and Kilpatrick had lied under oath.

It sparked the end of Kilpatrick's tenure as Detroit's leader. Kilpatrick was charged with multiple felonies, including perjury and obstruction of justice. In September 2008, he pleaded guilty to two felonies and agreed to resign. He eventually served a four-month jail term.

Beatty, who by then was divorced, resigned and spent 69 days in jail after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

"I will tell you the hardest day in my life was the day I had to leave my children and go to jail," she said in the interview. "And we had tried to prepare the girls before that with the, Mommy had to go away because — has to go away for a minute because she told a lie, you know, in a court of law and you don't, you can't do that. I was going to be gone for four months or whatever, and they were wailing, my oldest daughter was holding on to my leg, screaming, and it was, that's the thing … that was the worst day of my life."

Kilpatrick told reporter John White that he hadn't anticipated the risk of his time with Beatty.  "I thought that, like most men when they’re in this situation, I can handle it. And how wrong I was."

Today, Kilpatrick also is divorced and remains locked up. He was convicted of running a criminal enterprise out of the mayoral office and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison, one of the harshest corruption sentences in U.S. history. His release date is 2037, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Last year, he lost another chance to avoid paying $1.5 million restitution to the city’s water department stemming from the corruption scandal.

Beatty has since relocated to Atlanta, appeared on reality TV and publicly thanked her ex-husband for support.