Report: 2 journalists barred from Detroit mayor’s speech

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Two reporters were barred this week from a speech given by Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick hours after he resigned as part of a plea deal in two criminal cases, the Detroit Free Press reported.

According to the newspaper, Kilpatrick’s police bodyguards on Sept. 4 blocked the Free Press’ M.L. Elrick and WXYZ-TV’s Steve Wilson from entering the conference room where the speech was held. Other journalists were allowed to attend the news conference, which was televised live.

Wilson told the newspaper that police said he was barred from the event because he was a security threat.

“They claim there was an incident a few nights ago at the [mayor’s] mansion in which I pushed an officer. I wasn’t even at the [mayor’s] mansion,” Wilson said.

Elrick, meanwhile, said an officer physically blocked him from entering the room, after which the head of the mayor’s security detail told both journalists they could not attend the event.

Earlier in the day, Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice. In exchange for his guilty plea, the Democrat will get four months behind bars, pay the city $1 million in restitution, lose his license to practice law, and spend five years on probation, during which he cannot run for any elected office.

Kilpatrick was charged earlier this year with perjury and other offenses for denying he and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, had an affair. The scandal broke wide open in January with the release of a trove of text messages between the two of them — some of them sexually explicit — that appeared to contradict the mayor.

Kilpatrick admitted in court Sept. 4 that he lied on the stand about his romantic relationship with Beatty. He also pleaded no contest to one count of assault for allegedly shoving a detective who was trying to serve a subpoena in the text-message case. His sentence in that case will be served at the same time as the one for obstruction.

The plea bargain came just one day after Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm convened an extraordinary hearing on whether to oust Kilpatrick as mayor.

His resignation will take effect in two weeks and his sentence will be officially imposed on Oct. 28. Under the city charter, any mayor guilty of a felony is automatically expelled from office.

The scandal stems from a whistleblower lawsuit filed by two former police officers who accused Kilpatrick of retaliating against them for trying to investigate misconduct by the mayor and his security detail. Questioned under oath in 2004 and 2007, Kilpatrick repeatedly denied having an affair with Beatty.

But the Free Press later obtained text messages between the two and published excerpts. Kilpatrick and Beatty were later charged.

In addition to perjury, Kilpatrick was accused of misleading the City Council when he secured its approval of an $8.4 million settlement in the whistleblower suit. Prosecutors said he settled to keep the text messages from becoming public.

Beatty is expected to enter a plea bargain during her next court appearance on Sept. 11.

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