DALLAS (AP) — Kwame Kilpatrick, the disgraced former mayor of Detroit, has a message for the city he used to lead: Let’s move on.
“The city has not been allowed to move forward, and the city has not been allowed to heal,” Kilpatrick said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with The Dallas Morning News. “And I think more than anything, it’s time for everyone to move on.”
Kilpatrick, who now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Southlake, resigned as the Detroit mayor in 2008 and spent 99 days in jail for lying under oath about having an affair. He joined his wife and sons last year in the swanky suburban Tarrant County town, determined to rebuild his life.
At the end of the month, Kilpatrick will fly back to his hometown, enter a courtroom and find out whether he’s going back to jail. A judge last month warned him to “have your affairs in order” after determining Kilpatrick was guilty of violating terms of his probation.
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Kilpatrick, who’s in the process of paying $1 million in restitution to the city of Detroit, said he hasn’t missed his monthly payments and plans to pay back the amount in full and on time. But the judge said Kilpatrick failed to disclose his assets and surrender tax refunds.
Kilpatrick said he’s done nothing wrong. He said that he hasn’t gotten a fair shake in Michigan courts and that he hopes to avoid a jail sentence and remain with his family in Southlake.
He said he is focusing on healing his family’s wounds and repairing his marriage, adding that he needs to be far away from his hometown so he can begin his recovery.
Kilpatrick said that he has a new hometown and that he plans to stay in Texas.
“This community has wrapped its arms around me,” he said with his wife, Carlita, at his side. “People welcome us to town. That has been a fantastic breath of fresh air for us.”
The discovery of sexually explicit text messages in January 2008 fueled the end of Kilpatrick’s political career.
The messages, between Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, contradicted denials they gave under oath that they were having an affair.
Kilpatrick wanted to fight the matter. But he said his kids led him a different direction.
Son Jelani had a chat with his twin brother, Kilpatrick said. Then he announced to his parents: No. We’re tired. We want to move forward.
“We were shocked,” Kilpatrick said. “We were all crying.”
“It’s one of those moments where they led,” Carlita Kilpatrick said. “Oftentimes, children have a much clearer view of things.”
Before going to jail, Kilpatrick sat his sons down and talked about “being young men and helping their mom out.”
“They stepped into those shoes,” he said. “When I got back, they took a deep breath and said, ‘Good. You’re back. We can go back to being kids.’ “
The children are enjoying life in Southlake, their parents said. Seventh-graders Jelani and Jalil attend private school. Jonas, a third-grader, attends public school.
When Kilpatrick isn’t working his sales job at Covisint, a subsidiary of Compuware, he said he is catching his kids’ basketball and football games and track events. The family plays miniature golf and laser tag. They watch movies, attend high school sporting events and explore art festivals.
In the near future, Kilpatrick said, he plans to mentor inner-city children.
Kilpatrick has made friends at The Potter’s House, where the family worships. Bishop T.D. Jakes has counseled Kilpatrick on “life issues, transition issues, change, family, and manhood and responsibility.”
While Kilpatrick tries to carve out a new life in Texas, his lifestyle continues to attract attention back home.
Members of the Detroit media have made many trips to Southlake to stake out the Kilpatricks, showing video of their rented mansion, valued at more than $1 million, and driving around in expensive vehicles.
The former mayor again made headlines in Detroit on Wednesday, announcing the launch of a new Web site, friendsofkwame.com where he can accept notes of support and financial contributions.
Kilpatrick said he isn’t concerned that he’s giving Detroiters the impression that he’s living in luxury.
“I spent my entire life being political, trying to think about what other folks think,” he said. “If it’s pleasing to God, and pleasing to this woman and to my three boys, at this particular point in my life, that’s what I care about.”
In court documents, prosecutors say Kilpatrick has “intentionally hidden assets to the court, lied to the court, and fraudulently conveyed assets to others to avoid his obligation to pay restitution.”
“The prosecutors haven’t discovered anything,” Kilpatrick said. “I think they do a great job of manipulating their communication. … This is all about them coming down here and saying I was living high on the hog.”
Prosecutors in Michigan have said that he should go back behind bars. Michigan Department of Corrections officials have said they’ll request that Kilpatrick be placed in jail, but for less than a year.
Kilpatrick brushes off that speculation, saying “that’s a campaign in Detroit right now.”
“I’m just hopeful that at some point in this process, justice will prevail,” he said.
Kilpatrick’s wife said another jail sentence is “inappropriate.”
“I want my husband at home with me,” Carlita Kilpatrick said. “We have moved on. We have tried to heal.”
Kwame Kilpatrick said his kids get nervous every time he flies back to Detroit for a court hearing: “They don’t want their dad to be gone again.”
The Kilpatricks sat on a couch in a Southlake hotel room, joking and laughing. He draped his arm around her as she leaned in.
Carlita Kilpatrick said she’s sticking by her husband. She’s forgiven him.
“Our faith in God and our love for one another have pulled us through,” she said. “I know I love my husband. I love him now more than ever before. I trust him.”
When he was mayor, Kilpatrick said, he felt he was married to his job. He said he turned his back on God, his wife and their boys. That’s no longer the case, he said.
“I wanted to get back to what is really important: my wife and my children,” Kilpatrick said. “Dallas has really allowed me to reconnect with my wife in a way that we didn’t know was possible. We’re closer now than we’ve ever been.”