Trump commutes sentence of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick after 7 years in prison

Kilpatrick was serving 28-year sentence for corruption

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has sentence commuted
Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has sentence commuted

DETROIT – Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will be released from prison after serving seven years of a 28-year sentence for his role in a major corruption scandal after President Donald Trump commuted his sentence late Tuesday night.

It was Trump’s final night in the White House before he leaves Wednesday to make way for President-elect Joe Biden and his new administration.

UPDATE Jan. 20: US releases former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from prison

Here’s the statement from the White House:

“President Trump commuted the sentence of the former Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick. This commutation is strongly supported by prominent members of the Detroit community, Alveda King, Alice Johnson, Diamond and Silk, Pastor Paula White, Peter Karmanos, Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo of the Michigan House of Representatives, Rep. Karen Whitsett of the Michigan House of Representatives, and more than 30 faith leaders. Mr. Kilpatrick has served approximately 7 years in prison for his role in a racketeering and bribery scheme while he held public office. During his incarceration, Mr. Kilpatrick has taught public speaking classes and has led Bible Study groups with his fellow inmates.”

Trump White House

Michigan State Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-9th District) said she spoke with Trump on the phone and had known for days that the commutation was coming.

“I knew that this was coming. The last conversation that we had is that he told me it was on his desk to be signed,” said Whitsett. “The former mayor had an unjust sentence, and that he served enough time, and that I am happy for his family that he has them now, and that he’s able to spend time with his family now, where he should be.”

A commutation simply reduces the sentence of a prisoner, whereas a pardon wipes away the crime.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider was definitely not in support of a shortened sentence or pardon for Kilpatrick.

“My position on the disgraced former Mayor of Detroit has not changed. Kwame Kilpatrick has earned every day he served in federal prison for the horrible crimes he committed against the People of Detroit. He is a notorious and unrepentant criminal,” reads a statement from Schneider. “He remains convicted of 24 felonies. Kilpatrick has served only one quarter of the sentence that was very appropriately imposed. Thankfully, under Michigan law, he cannot hold state or local public office for 20 years after his conviction.”

The push to free Kwame Kilpatrick

In October of 2020, Kilpatrick’s sister, Ayanna, said she expected the release to happen, but it never happened until now.

“Due to suffering severe health challenges we expect Kwame Kilpatrick to receive a grant for COVID-19 compassionate release from the FBOP this week,” Ayanna Kilpatrick tweeted at the time.

As of Sunday night, Kilpatrick’s release date was still listed for January 18, 2037 on the Bureau of Prison inmate directory. Earlier this year, Kilpatrick’s family believed he would be released for COVID-19 concerns, but the request was denied by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

A look into ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's career
A look into ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's career

Kilpatrick, 50, is currently serving a 28-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana.

Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison in 2013 after being convicted of racketeering, mail fraud, and wire fraud, among other charges. He has been fighting his sentence ever since. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had denied his original appeal of his conviction and sentence. He filed another motion in 2017 to vacate his prison sentence, and that was denied by a district court judge.

In 2019, he was denied again by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2018, Kilpatrick wrote a letter to President Donald Trump, asking for his sentence to be commuted.

Read back: 7 years ago: Kwame Kilpatrick is convicted on 24 federal felony counts

In January 2020, billionaire Peter Karmanos, a long time friend of Kilpatrick, said he was working to get the ex-mayor a presidential pardon. Karmanos spoke on Charlie LeDuff’s podcast, implying that Kilpatrick was a victim of a political conspiracy and that he will use his influence with President Donald Trump to get him freed from prison.

In February 2020, Detroit State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo attended the national African American History celebration at the White House after discussions with President Trump’s team on the Kilpatrick issue. Gay-Dagnogo brought a letter signed by politicians and pastors across the state requesting commutation of sentence.

In May, despite belief from his family that he would be released, Kilpatrick’s request for early release due to COVID-19 was rejected by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Kilpatrick served as mayor of Detroit from 2002 to 2008. He resigned in 2008 following the corruption scandal. Before serving as mayor, Kilpatrick served in the Michigan State House of Representative.

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