Kwame Kilpatrick regained his freedom early Tuesday morning, emerging from jail after a 99-day sentence and stepping back onto the cold, dark streets of the city he once ruled as mayor.
The 38-year-old Kilpatrick, about 25 pounds lighter than when he entered jail at the end of October, left the downtown Detroit facility wearing a dark suit just after 12:30 a.m.
Before leaving the building, Kilpatrick stood for several minutes in the jail lobby, consulting with lawyers and friends on the other side of the glass front doors.
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As he stepped onto the sidewalk, Kilpatrick stood for a long moment amid bright television camera lights, a crush of awaiting reporters and swirling snowflakes, smiling occasionally to those in the crowd who called his name and shouted: "We love you, Kwame. Detroit loves you, baby!"
Flanked by a number of men, several dressed in fedoras and long coats, Kilpatrick then was rushed to a waiting blue Chevrolet Suburban. The Democrat waved from behind tinted windows as he was whisked away as part of a multi-vehicle caravan.
Kilpatrick made no statements to the media during his release, upon the orders of new defense attorney Willie E. Gary.
"He's not bitter. He said he learned a lot," Gary said a short time later during an impromptu sidewalk news conference. "He said this has been an experience he'll never forget, and he thinks because of it he'll be a better person. Right now, he's just concerned about getting home to his mom, his sister, and of course his other family.
"The former mayor ... he wishes the city well, all the people of Detroit well and that there are no hard feelings one way or the other."
It's been more than a year since a text-messaging sex scandal first reported by the Detroit Free Press started the long process that ended in Kilpatrick's disgraceful arrest, plea, jailing and release. Now, the man who quickly rose from a state representative to mayor of a city of 900,000 people simply is looking for work.
Kilpatrick was expected to meet with state probation officials before heading to a job interview Wednesday with an unnamed company at an undisclosed location in Texas. His wife, Carlita, and three young sons, already have left Michigan.
A judge has ordered that he return by Feb. 9.
"The job prospect is very, very, very favorable," Gary told reporters. "We want to make sure he can get, and land, the job. That's his first thing. He wants a job. That's what he is concerned about now. He wants to get with his family, get with his kids so he can start his life again."
The next five years, though, will be spent on probation and paying off the bulk of $1 million in restitution to the city. He also has had his law license revoked.
If Kilpatrick lands the job in Texas, he must first get permission to transfer his probation from Michigan to that state.
Kilpatrick was into the middle of his second term as mayor when sexually explicit text messages with his then-Chief of Staff Christine Beatty were published by the Free Press.
The messages from Beatty's city-issued pager also contradicted testimony that she and the married mayor gave during a 2007 whistle-blowers' trial when they denied having a romantic relationship. The messages also indicated they lied about their roles in the firing of a police official.
The cash-strapped city, now facing a deficit believed to be more than $200 million, eventually settled the civil suit with three former officers for $8.4 million.
Kilpatrick and Beatty were charged last March with perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice.
Before his trial on those charges was to begin, Kilpatrick pleaded guilty in September to obstruction of justice and no contest to assault for allegedly shoving a detective who was trying to serve a subpoena in the text-message case.
He stepped down as mayor on Sept. 18. Beatty, who resigned last February, was sentenced early last month to 120 days in jail after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.
But Kilpatrick's long and bitter battles in local courts may not be over.
His lawyers will be looking at the legal machinations that led to his jailing, said Gary, who added that no decision has been made on whether to file any civil suits.
"It is one thing to convict someone, but it is another thing to do it in a way where they are not getting the same justice as anyone else would get; nothing more, nothing less," Gary said.
"That's why we're here to make sure that was done, and if it wasn't done, then we'll have to deal with it at that time."