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Detroit mayor’s political future back in court

A lawyer for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick asked a judge Friday to freeze next week's hearing that could remove him from office, accusing Michigan's governor of being too biased to hear the case.
Image:  Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick,
Prosecutor Doug Baker, left, talks to Judge David Broner as Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, second from right, and his attorney Juan Mateo listen during an arraignment for the mayor on assault charges at the 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit on Aug. 22. Bryan Mitchell / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A lawyer for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick asked a judge Friday to freeze next week's hearing that could remove him from office, accusing Gov. Jennifer Granholm of being too biased to preside over the case.

Dan Webb also said the rules for the hearing would greatly hamper Kilpatrick's defense. He asked for a 14-day restraining order to suspend the proceedings, scheduled to start Wednesday.

"There are some very basic rights that clearly have to be applied," Webb told Wayne County Circuit Judge Robert Ziolkowski.

The judge said he had planned to go fishing but would work on the case over the holiday weekend and make a ruling Tuesday.

The Detroit City Council is asking Granholm to use her constitutional power to remove Kilpatrick from office for misconduct.

The mayor is accused of misleading council members into approving an $8.4 million settlement with fired police officers. The council says it didn't know the deal included provisions to keep a cover on romantic text messages between Kilpatrick and a top aide.

Bias claim stems from private meeting
Kilpatrick's lawyers filed a lawsuit Thursday, claiming the mayor can't get a fair hearing from the governor. A key argument: Granholm held a private meeting in May to try to settle Kilpatrick's criminal perjury case and get him to resign.

"The governor is the only person that has the authority to remove him from office. She should have thought of this before she embroiled herself" in talks about a plea deal, Webb said.

In response, the governor's deputy legal counsel said the bias claim is "laughable."

John Wernet said Granholm's role in brokering a settlement is something judges do every day.

"The issue was is there middle ground that both parties could live with to serve the interests of justice. Clearly there wasn't," Wernet said of the spring meeting with Wayne County prosecutors and the mayor's legal team.

Wernet, citing legal precedent, said the court's ability to intervene in a removal hearing is "exceedingly limited."

"This is not a criminal prosecution," he said. "This is an administrative proceeding."

10 felony counts
Besides the removal hearing, Kilpatrick faces 10 felony counts in separate perjury and assault cases.

In the first case, he and ex-top aide Christine Beatty are charged with perjury, conspiracy, misconduct and obstruction of justice. They are accused of lying during the 2007 whistle-blowers' trial about having an extramarital affair and their roles in the firing of a deputy police chief.

Text messages from Beatty's city-issued pager contradicted their testimony.

The other charges stem from allegations that the mayor shoved a prosecutor's investigator into another in July as they were attempting to serve a subpoena in the perjury case to a Kilpatrick friend.