Detroit Mayor’s Text Messages Point to Perjury

In the Information Age, technology often improves faster than most people can keep up with it. Legislators are especially familiar with the difficulties involved in keeping pace with the latest gadgets, and laws are often several years behind current technological capabilities.

Recently, sources have commented on the growing trend of criminals proving their own guilt with cell phone pictures of their crimes. In short, a defendant can do great harm to his criminal defense simply by using his favorite gadgets. Here’s the latest example.

Kwame Kilpatrick, mayor of Detroit, has come under fire for a collection of text messages found by the Detroit Free Press. According to reports, the electronic communications prove that Mayor Kilpatrick and his Chief of Staff Christine Beatty committed perjury during a trial last year.

The original trial was reportedly brought by former Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown and another police officer and bodyguard to the mayor, Harold Nelthorpe. The two claimed they were wrongfully fired because they wanted to conduct a probe into Kilpatrick’s security team, sources indicate.

They indicated that the probe would have been unwelcome to Kilpatrick since it would have revealed an affair he was allegedly having with Beatty in 2002-2003. Kilpatrick reportedly denied both claims.

The trial itself ended up costing the city of Detroit $9 million in legal fees and settlement costs – an unwelcome price tag for a city already struggling financially.

But the recent revelation of the text messages which the city evidently fought to keep out of the trial could mean even more trouble for Detroit’s mayor. Though reports of the trial indicate that Kilpatrick denied under oath that he fired Gary Brown, the text messages show otherwise.

Messages from Beatty to Kilpatrick apparently include one that mentions the “decision we have made to fire Gary Brown.” Additionally, some of the messages include explicit sexual content, pointing to an affair between Beatty and Kilpatrick, sources report. Both Kilpatrick and Beatty apparently denied the affair under oath during the trial.

So what does this mean for Detroit’s mayor?

According to reports from the Associated Press, Kilpatrick and Beatty could face criminal defense trials for charges of perjury. Kilpatrick, a lawyer, and Beatty, currently in law school, could face jail time and serious penalties from the legal community if they’re convicted of lying under oath.

But some criminal defense lawyers question the validity of using text messages as evidence in a criminal trial. Some legal experts have reportedly raised the concern that text messages should be considered private communications and should be unavailable to prosecuting attorneys.

In Kilpatrick’s case, though, things might be a little different: the text messages, though of an extremely private nature, were sent and received on his state-issued pager, according to sources.

With technological advancements come specific benefits and costs. In some cases, increased communication capabilities may come at the cost of seriously decreased privacy.