Lawyer: I Gave Ex-Mayor's E-mails to 'Detroit Free Press'

By: A lawyer who won a police whistle-blowers' case that led to the downfall of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick testified Thursday that he gave a copy of the ex-mayor's text messages to the Detroit Free Press in October 2007.

The admission by Mike Stefani came during a misconduct hearing before the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board. Stefani testified he obtained three copies of the messages through a subpoena shortly after his clients won a $6.5 million jury award in their case against Kilpatrick.

"I gave one to the Detroit Free Press for safekeeping," Stefani testified, saying he gave them to the newspaper "a day or two after I got them."

The hearing stopped following Stefani's testimony, and panel members discussed whether charges against Stefani should be amended to include new ones.

"His admission provides evidence that he provided false statements in two previous sets of testimony and may require investigation of perjury," said Robert Edick, a lawyer acting as prosecutor on behalf of the state's Attorney Grievance Commission.

In a story posted on its Web site, the Free Press said editors at the paper had no immediate comment.

The Free Press in January 2008 published excerpts of sexually explicit text messages between a married Kilpatrick, the mayor at the time, and Christine Beatty, his chief of staff.

Kilpatrick and Beatty eventually were charged and jailed, and the lead reporters on the story, M.L. Elrick and Jim Schaefer, won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting, which opened the door to intense scrutiny of Kilpatrick, his finances and the operations of the mayor's office.

The Detroit News quoted Elrick as saying he couldn't comment.

"That's what (Stefani) says," Elrick told the News. "I can't comment on that. I'm here to cover it, not consult."

The paper has not said how it obtained the messages, which revealed that Kilpatrick and Beatty lied about their affair under oath during the 2007 whistle-blowers' trial. The messages were left on Beatty's city-issued pager.

Following a short investigation, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Kilpatrick and Beatty in March 2008 with perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice. Kilpatrick was required to leave the mayor's office after he pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and no contest to assault.

The 2009 Pulitzer was for local reporting.


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