EPISODE THIRTEEN: GARY BROWN V. MAYOR OF DETROIT
ARCHIVAL DEVIN SCILLIAN: Memos and allegations of misconduct in the Manoogian Mansion. The accusations fly. Was there a coverup? And where does the truth lie? Former Deputy Chief Gary Brown lost his job in the mix... [SWOOSH]
JOHN WHITE: In 2003, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick removed Gary Brown from his position as head of internal affairs in the Detroit Police Department. The decision raised questions about a cover up, and re-ignited the rumors about a wild party at the mayor’s mansion.
ARCHIVAL SCILLIAN: ...none of these rumors are new. Every reporter in town has known of the mansion party rumor for months. Not a one of them was willing to go with it in a story, however, and they never would have until the mayor fired Gary Brown.
JOHN: Kwame Kilpatrick survived the scandal to go on to a second term as mayor of Detroit. But Gary Brown didn't go away.
ARCHIVAL SCILLIAN: Gary Brown joins us this morning on Flashpoint. Officer Brown, thank you very much for coming.
ARCHIVAL GARY BROWN: Oh, thank you for asking me.
ARCHIVAL SCILLIAN: You must have been caught up in something you never quite saw coming.
ARCHIVAL BROWN: Oh, yeah, I was shocked when I got fired. There was a war going on between the chief’s office and the mayor’s office. And it had to do with me and an investigation that I was doing. For me this has never been about whether the allegations were true or not true, because only an investigation will tell that. This has been about being allowed to conduct an investigation. And then once I did that being fired.
ARCHIVAL BROWN: I tried very hard to contact the mayor through my attorney so that we could settle this privately. And once he ignored our calls and refused to talk to us and settle this privately, I had no choice but to go public.
JOHN: Gary Brown didn’t just go public...he sued Kwame and the city of Detroit.
Today on the show … The mayor is forced to take the stand and an explosive secret is revealed.
I’m John White. Welcome to Crimetown.
BALIFF: ALL RISE. Circuit court in the county of wayne is now in session...
JIM SCHAEFER: So you know, civil cases take a while. Sometimes you settle them.
JOHN: This is Detroit Free Press reporter Jim Schaefer. He covered the trial of Gary Brown v. the Mayor of Detroit.
SCHAEFER: Kilpatrick was offered a settlement. Gary Brown just wanted his job back and they rejected it. Said, “Take it to trial!” Well, they took it to trial.
JUDGE: Mr. Mayor, would you raise your right hand. Do you swear that the testimony that you’re about to give shall be the truth?
KWAME KILPATRICK: It will.
MIKE STEFANI: Morning Mr. Mayor.
KWAME: Morning Mr. Stefani...
SCHAEFER: We knew the mayor was going to testify and that Christine Beatty was going to testify. So we set up recorders and went and covered the thing.
[TAPE SHUFFLING SOUND]
STEFANI: Good morning.
CHRISTINE BEATTY: Good Morning.
STEFANI: Could you state your full name for the record please?
BEATTY: Sure. Christine Lynn Beatty.
JOHN: This is Kwame’s longtime friend and chief of staff Christine Beatty, who you’ve met in previous episodes. Here, she’s taking the stand, being questioned by Mike Stefani, Gary Brown’s lawyer.
STEFANI: And as chief of staff you are responsible for several departments within the Detroit city government.
BEATTY: That's correct.
STEFANI: And Public Safety encompassed the Detroit Police Department, the Detroit Fire Department --
BEATTY: That's correct.
STEFANI: Isn’t it a fact that, you thought Brown was conducting an unauthorized investigation...
JOHN: For Christine, this whole thing started when she heard rumblings of an investigation into a member of the mayor’s security staff.
JOHN: She asked police chief Jerry Oliver to fill her in.
STEFANI: And if I understand you correctly, Oliver just walked up to you and handed you an envelope and says, “This is in regard to your question.”
BEATTY: That's correct.
STEFANI: And you opened up the envelope and inside was this two page confidential internal affairs memorandum, is that correct?
BEATTY: That's correct.
STEFANI: And your reaction was to go, “Whoa!” Correct?
BEATTY: That's correct.
JOHN: Inside the envelope was a memo signed by Gary Brown, detailing his investigation into the mayor’s security team for allegations of drunk driving and other misconduct.
STEFANI: And you didn't really make any inquiries or follow-up investigation concerning that memo is that correct?
BEATTY: No, I did not because at the bottom, it had indicated by the chief I believe and the author of the memo that no further action would be taken regarding the issues.
JOHN: Later that day, the plot thickened...
STEFANI: Now the same day, you received an anonymous envelope, or I should say you received an envelope delivered to your office stamped confidential, is that correct?
BEATTY: That's correct.
STEFANI: And I believe you thought that it was either slid under the door or put in your mailbox.
BEATTY: That's correct.
JOHN: According to Christine, this anonymous letter essentially said that Gary Brown wasn’t trustworthy.
STEFANI: That anonymous letter said, “Hey, the two page memo that you got from the chief isn't the real story and Brown has another unauthorized investigation going on.”
BEATTY: Again I can't say that's what it said verbatim. Something in regards to that. That's correct.
STEFANI: Do you have a copy of that letter with you today?
BEATTY: No I do not.
STEFANI: You have it back at your office someplace?
BEATTY: No I do not.
STEFANI: Did you shred the letter?
BEATTY: Yes I did.
STEFANI: So you made up the anonymous letter.
BEATTY: No sir, that’s not true. I do not allow things that are unsigned or that have information that can be mis-strued in any way just sitting around in my office.
STEFANI: If I understand you correctly, on the basis of an anonymous letter which you shredded, and on the basis of this two page memorandum, without doing any investigation, without reviewing Brown's personnel file, without reviewing his record, you recommended to Mayor Kilpatrick during that meeting that his, Brown's appointment be repealed, be revoked?
BEATTY: Again there were more reasons than that but those two were a part of it, yes.
JOHN: So Kwame and Christine called Police Chief Jerry Oliver.
JERRY OLIVER: It was late in the day. And I get a phone call from the mayor, he says, “Hey, can you swing by? I want to talk to you.” Said sure. So, I said “where?,” he said “in my office, I'm in my office.” I said OK.
OLIVER: When I walked into the room, there was the mayor and Christine Beatty sitting on a couch together. The mayor had his shoes off and his feet was up on a coffee table. And Christine was sitting next to him in a very comfortable position. It wasn't like we were having an official meeting it was more like you know you're visiting somebody at their house.
OLIVER: He said, “How are you doing?” And a lot of small talk and then said, “Hey look I want you to fire Gary Brown and I want you to fire him today.” I said, “Uh...I need to know why.” And he says, “No. You don't need to know why, you just need to fire him like I'm asking you to. Here's a letter.” And he handed me a letter and the letter, you know, congratulated Gary on a great career and all that, like some of those letters do, and said, but you are hereby terminated. And I was amazed.
OLIVER: And Christine Beatty said to me, “Chief, what's wrong with your face?” And I said, “What you see on my face is that this is the dumbest thing you have done. If I fire Gary Brown today, this is going to create a major issue for you.”
JOHN: Christine Beatty sees the situation...differently.
BEATTY: Gary Brown did not get fired. For the one thousandth time. He was unappointed from that deputy chief's position, and in the city of Detroit, based on our city charter, when you leave an appointed position, you fall right back down to your very last city mandated position, which was commander. He was not fired.
ARCHIVAL BROWN: Yeah...The simple fact that they won’t even say that they fired me...
JOHN: Again, Gary Brown.
ARCHIVAL BROWN: ...took my badge. Took my ID card. Took my phone. Took the keys to my car. Locked me out of my office. Sent my things to my home in a box. That in anybody’s world is firing. To this day, I’ve never been given a plausible explanation or any explanation as to why I was fired. I think that what the mayor stated is just subterfuge and he’s attempting to justify what he did after the fact.
KWAME: This decision was my decision. I decided we're moving in the direction of unappointing Mr. Brown.
JOHN: When Kwame took the stand, he insisted that he had every right, and every reason, to remove Gary Brown from his position.
KWAME: And that there were some severe things going on in internal affairs that we didn't know about. It wasn't a knee-jerk decision on Thursday. Uh! Let’s do it. No. There was a lot of deliberations.
STEFANI: Why didn’t you share with the chief of police the information you had that caused you to believe Brown was not fit?
KWAME: As the mayor of the city of Detroit, as the person who sat with the Department of Justice and promised them, in Washington, Detroit, LA —
STEFANI: The youngest lead spokesman for the state of Michigan —
KWAME: No no no. It had nothing to do with that.
STEFANI: We could stay up all night —
KWAME: It has nothing to do with youngest anything. I was the person that was charged with making sure that this police department was meeting its goals. And secondly to that —
STEFANI: I just asked you why didn't you share, I didn't ask you who was charged with it or where the ball rests or whether God told you to run for the city, Mayor, I asked you why you didn't tell the chief the information you had?
KWAME: Well it concerned me that when you look at the chain of command that he didn't know anything about what was going on.
STEFANI: Have you ever considered the fact you developed a reputation of being evasive and a liar?
KWAME: Yes, Mr. Stefani, there were times when I didn't do or say the correct thing. There were times when I did fall down on this job. But in this case what I'm sure of is that we made the right decision then and it’s the right decision now.
JOHN: But the question remained: Why hadn’t Kwame and Christine told the police chief their reasons for firing Gary Brown? Did they have something to hide?
STEFANI: You and Mayor Kilpatrick sometimes communicated, did you not, by SkyTell messages?
BEATTY: Our whole administration did.
STEFANI: Those are text message machines??
SCHAEFER: Then Stefani asked these questions about the text messages.
JOHN: Detroit Free Press reporter Jim Schaefer was already familiar with the Kilpatrick administration’s texting habits.
SCHAEFER: They had these dedicated pagers, and they would sit in rooms like this, sometimes with reporters, and they'd ... every member of his staff, his cabinet, had these texting devices. And back then it was, you know, you're like, "What in the hell are these guys doing? Why are they talking so much ... how rude! You know, we're sitting right here and they're texting." Today it's accepted, right? But back then it was very weird.
STEFANI: During 2002 did you ever send or receive to the mayor or from the mayor a text message concerning Gary Brown?
STEFANI: Same question but concerning any memo, letter, or other information that the police department, Brown, or the professional accountability bureau was investigating the Manoogian Mansion party?
STEFANI: Uh, same question about nude dancers.
STEFANI: And did you ever use the text message system to communicate messages of a personal nature to the mayor?
STEFANI: Did you ever receive messages from the mayor of a personal nature?
STEFANI: And by personal, I mean messages which were not strictly pertaining to city government matters.
STEFANI: Did you use the message device to arrange social meetings between you and the mayor?
STEFANI: Did you ever send the mayor or receive from the mayor a text message which was of an intimate or sexual nature?
STEFANI: Same question about your desire to leave your husband.
STEFANI: During the time period, 2001 to 2003, were you and Mayor Kilpatrick either romantically or intimately involved with each other?
SCHAEFER: During the trial, the attorney, Mike Stefani, got Christine Beatty and Kilpatrick on the stand separately. And as part of his questioning, asked them if they had a relationship -- romantic relationship. Christine Beatty is infamous to this day because video shows her rolling her eyes when she was asked that question. And she flat out says, “No,” and Kilpatrick said the same thing.
STEFANI: Um, Mayor Kilpatrick, during 2002, 2003, were you romantically involved with Christine Beatty?
JUDGE CALLAHAN: Sustained.
SCHAEFER: But as Kilpatrick does, he couldn't help elaborating. And he gave this long quote about how offensive the question even is.
KWAME: It was pretty demoralizing to her. You have to know her. But it's demoralizing to me as well. My mother is a congresswoman. There have always been strong women around me. I think it's absurd to assert that every woman that works with a man is a whore. I think it's disrespectful not just to Christine Beatty but to women who do a professional job that they do every single day. And it's also disrespectful to their families as well.
STEFANI: I have no further questions at this time, your honor. Thank you Mr. Mayor.
KWAME: Thank you.
STEFANI: Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
JURY: Good morning.
STEFANI: I want to thank you again for serving on the jury. This case was about lies and arrogance. It will not require the wisdom of King Solomon to decide this case.
JOHN: After weeks of testimony, Mike Stefani’s closing argument reiterated that the question before the jury was simple: did the Kilpatrick administration retaliate against Gary Brown for his efforts to investigate the mayor?
STEFANI: So if you find that at least one of the reasons that Mayor Kilpatrick considered in terminating Brown was that he was investigating the Manoogian, then he has satisfied the whistleblower protection act. And we hope that you will do the right thing and we thank you for your time and attention.
JUDGE: Is the verdict of the jury unanimous?
FOREMAN: Yes it is. Did the defendant, Mayor Kilpatrick, discharge or threaten or discriminate against Gary Brown in violation of the whistleblower’s protection act, as defined for you in these instructions? Yes.
JOHN: The jury only needed a few hours of deliberations to decide that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had demoted Gary Brown as an act of retribution. They awarded Brown $3.6 million in damages.
ARCHIVAL BROWN: We’ve been vindicated but I don’t want to mislead anyone and make them believe that it’s about the money. It wasn’t about the money. It was about getting our reputations back. If you have information with regards to public corruption, come forward with it. You know, you’re a lot safer doing it today, than yesterday.
KWAME: I’m absolutely blown away at this decision. I believe the verdict, obviously, is incredibly wrong, and doesn’t reconcile at all in my mind with the facts that were presented in this case. We, we don’t have the money to settle with these clients. We don’t believe that we should settle with these clients. We don’t believe that we should pay this verdict.
JOHN: It seemed as though the Gary Brown scandal was finally over. But there was another one just around the corner. Again, reporter Jim Schaefer:
SCHAEFER: Mike Stefani sent down subpoenas -- actual subpoenas -- to SkyTel, which was the company that had the text messages.
DREW NELLES: So the lawyer gets the text messages...
SCHAEFER: Yeah, after the trial. Met for settlement talks with Kilpatrick's lawyers, and said, "Hey, you want to settle?" And they said, "Why would we want to do that?" And he said, "Well look what I have."
SCHAEFER: And one of the mayor's lawyers went ashen and said, "Can you give me a second?" And he went out to the parking lot, got on his cell phone and called Kilpatrick and said, "They have your text messages." And they agreed to settle on the spot if Stefani would agree to turn over the text messages to them and never speak of them again.
ARCHIVAL ANCHOR: Suddenly, in an abrupt turnabout, the mayor agreed to settle the case, for 2 million more than the jury award. But why settle? And for more money, not less?
DREW: And so how did you guys get those texts?
SCHAEFER: Still haven't said. Had a source. And so …when I got ahold of the text messages, I read the first page and I was like, "Holy shit, I think we hit the mother lode." So we publish the story. And it says, “Mayor lied under oath, text messages show.” That's a pretty bold headline to say your mayor lied under oath. So what they were was 14,000 text messages ... only between Kilpatrick and Beatty. On the very first page you could tell they were romantically involved which totally contradicted what they had said in court.
ARCHIVAL ANCHOR: Detroit Free Press spent years trying to track down those secret messages. They reveal a relationship between the mayor and his chief of staff that was far more than professional. It was apparently filled with love, and lust.
ARCHIVAL ANCHOR: Christine Beatty writes, I want another night like the most recent Saturday at the Residence Inn. You made me feel so damn good that night.
ARCHIVAL ANCHOR: The mayor responds, I need you sooo bad. I want to wake up in the morning and you are there.
SCHAEFER: It was like high school kids. You know it was just filled with lovey-dovey, romantic, sexual innuendo sometimes, kind of things.
ARCHIVAL ANCHOR: Beatty responds, haha, your game is way on baby. You had me at hello. Haha. I just didn’t want to get caught.
BEATTY: The original suit mentioned nothing about an affair between the mayor and myself. That was not what this lawsuit was supposed to be about.
JOHN: Again, Christine Beatty.
BEATTY: And so I remember when he asked those questions, I remember kind of us saying like... it's not going to be good. And of course we get on the stand, and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those tapes of me testifying. They're absolutely awful. First of all I'm the worst liar on Earth. So the whole, ah, all that stuff that you see is my terrible attempt at lying about our affair.
CHRISTINE: So how did that lead us to jail?
JOHN: Well, yeah…
CHRISTINE: How did an affair lead to jail?
JOHN: That’s next time on Crimetown.
Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. This season is made in partnership with Gimlet Media and Spotify.
This episode was produced by Rob Szypko, Soraya Shockley, Samantha Lee, and me, John White.
The senior producer is Drew Nelles.
Editing by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling.
Fact-checking by Jennifer Blackman.
This episode was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Sam Bair.
Original music this season composed by Homer Steinweiss.
We recorded some original music at Rustbelt Studios in Detroit in partnership with Detroit Sound Conservancy. Special thanks to Carleton Gholz and Maurice “Pirahnahead” Herd.
Additional music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, and Jon Ivans. Additional mixing by Bobby Lord.
Our theme song is “Politicians In My Eyes” by Death.
Our credit music this week is “Why Can’t We Communicate” by Melvin Davis.
Archival research by Brennan Rees.
The trial recordings you heard in this episode are courtesy of Jim Schaefer and the Detroit Free Press. Jim and his reporting partner ML Elrick put together a book called “The Kwame Sutra” — check it out. The proceeds go to charity.
Archival material courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University.
Show art and design by James Cabrera and Elise Harven.
We’ve got a great website with bonus content for each episode like photos, videos, and newspaper clippings, as well as a full list of credits and a transcript. Check it out at crimetownshow.com.
Thanks to the Detroit Free Press, Peter Bhatia, Mary Schroeder, Melanie Maxwell, Mary Wallace, Max White, Randy Lundquist, Erick Hetherington at D&D Video, ML Elrick, Devin Scillian, Melissa Samson, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, the Detroit Historical Society, Brendan Roney, Mike Martin, Zak Rosen, Elizabeth Clemens, and everyone who shared their stories with us. Detroit’s an amazing place, and we’re honored to tell a small part of its story.
Alex Blumberg is the podfather. The other day, I got strange text from him. It read: “Ha-ha, your game is way on, baby. You had me at hello. Ha-ha.”