Four years after salacious rumors and allegations of a wild party and marital infidelity, the civil trial of two former Detroit police officers vs. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick began earlier this week. Only in its third day, the trial has already gotten tongues wagging, keeping those following the trial waiting for what promises to be a series of juicy details and outrageous tales.
If you're not already aware, Gary Brown, a former deputy police chief, and Harold Nelthrope, a former member of the mayor's security detail, filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit again Kilpatrick and the City of Detroit. In the suit, Brown and Nelthrope allege that they were both unfairly dismissed from the Detroit Police Department for investigating allegations regarding a supposedly wild party at the mayor's official residence, Manoogian Mansion, that ultimately led to the death of a stripper, Tamara Green, who supposedly performed at the party.
Frankly, I'm surprised this case even made it all the way to trial. Surely, I thought, there would have been a settlement at this point to avoid a public and embarrassing trial that the media would otherwise cover like white on rice. Nevertheless, here we are.
Perhaps Kilpatrick feels as if he has nothing to lose, no matter how this case turns out. Here's how I see it. Obviously, if he is victorious in his defense, he will be able to put the allegations that have hounded him for years behind him once and for all.
On the other hand, the jury may rule in favor of the plaintiffs, which could very well happen. Since this is a civil trial, after all, the burden of proof for the plaintiffs is lower than it would be for a criminal trial. Unlike a criminal trial, where a unanimous verdict is required to convict, only a minimum of eight jurors out of twelve are needed to successfully rule in favor of the plaintiff. And perhaps, most interestingly, only one of the twelve jurors is an African-American, which may not bode in Kilpatrick's favor.
If Kilpatrick loses the trial, he still may win in the court of public opinion, at least among African-American Detroiters. After all, he was elected to a second term just less than two years ago by a comfortable margin. The mayor and his supporters may try to portray him as the victim of a biased jury that's not exactly comprised of his peers, garnering sympathy from his constituents.
This isn't unprecedented; just look at what happened with Marion Barry, former Washington, D.C. mayor, when he was caught on tape smoking crack, and subsequently served a prison sentence. Barry presented himself as a victim of a federal government setup, gained much of the black community's sympathy, and was later elected to City Council, and then ultimately, to another term as mayor of D.C. Kilpatrick could employ a similar strategy should the jury rule against him and the city.
Win or lose, Kilpatrick could still come out on top when all is said and done.