DETROIT (WWJ) – “Was I corrupt? Absolutely not. Did I steal? Absolutely not,” said ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, as he spoke Thursday evening before the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists at the Hotel St. Regis.
The applause was noticeably sparse as Kilpatrick, in a grey suit and lavender tie, was introduced by WWJ Newsradio 950′s Vickie Thomas.
Jury selection is underway for Kilpatrick, who faces trial in the coming months on federal corruption charges. To those who have called him a thief and a gangster, Kilpatrick said, “I have never stole a dang dime in my life from anybody.”
Does he think he can get a fair trial in Detroit?
“I don’t think I can … I believe that this place is too emotionally charged and biased,” Kilpatrick said. ”I’d be better off going down and you just hang me by that big fist downtown. I think it’s that kind of witch trial.”
If he is convicted, is he prepared to go back behind bars?
“If you lose, you’re prepared that day … you’re prepared, you lost, there’s nothing to do … Listen, no. I’m preparing for the victory, I’m preparing to overcome, I’m preparing for the struggle,” Kilpatrick said.
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In a brief statement before taking questions from reporters, Kilpatrick said there are five families from Detroit on his Texas street where he now lives. And when he meets former Detroiters, “The message is always the same coming out of our city: defeat, hopelessness, lack of faith — and it hurts.”
“This my town … I wear it on my sleeve … as a chip on my shoulder, and I still love this community,” Kilpatrick said. ”If there is anything I can do to help turn the page for so many in the community, that’s what I want to do.”
Kilpatrick admitted to cheating on his wife and lying to the people of Detroit. For that, he said, he is sorry.
“Because I did feel guilty for that. And I know that there are some people in this community that had hopes, dreams, incredible admiration for me, and what we were doing in the city at that time, and I absolutely, 100 percent let those people down,” he said. “And I wanna apologize for that.”
Kilpatrick said Detroit citizens should put the text message scandal in the past and move ahead.
“We’re talkin’ about Christine Beatty (Kilpatrick’s former mistress) in 2012 and … she’s been gone almost five years from the city,” said Kilpatrick. “You have Kwame Kilpatrick sitting here talking about a 2008 January issue, and I just think that that’s important for the discussion. If Detroit is gonna stay trapped in there, then you’ll never realize the prosperity that this city really can realize.”
Kilpatrick said people seem to want to freeze him in time, but he prefers to be “forward-thinking.”
“It took awhile for me to get rid of the condemnation and guilt that I felt behind what happened in 2008 … but, honestly, I don’t live in the past anymore,” Kilpatrick said.
Kilpatrick said it’s been an ongoing struggle for him getting back into shape mentally, physically and spiritually.
Asked how he’s been supporting his family, Kilpatrick said he’s been doing a lot of public speaking, “sharing my testimony all over the country … By the grace of God it’s afforded me to be able to feed my family, to pay my bills, and to pay my restitution,” he said.