Trump OKs prison release of Detroit’s disgraced former mayor

US Politics
Kwame Kilpatrick

FILE – In this May 25, 2010 file photo, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick sits in a Detroit courtroom. Rev. Trump has commuted the prison sentence of Kilpatrick, who has served about seven years of a 28-year sentence for corruption. The announcement Wednesday morning, Jan. 20, 2021, was part of a flurry of clemency action in the final hours of Trump’s White House term. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

DETROIT (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday commuted the 28-year prison sentence of disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was convicted on federal corruption charges and has served about seven years.

The announcement came in a flurry of clemency action in the final hours of Trump’s White House term that benefited more than 140 people, including rappers, former members of Congress and other Trump allies.

A White House statement said prominent members of the Detroit community had supported the 50-year-old Democrat’s commutation and noted: “During his incarceration, Mr. Kilpatrick has taught public speaking classes and has led Bible Study groups with his fellow inmates.”

It was not immediately clear Wednesday when Kilpatrick would be released from federal custody. The Associated Press left an email with the Bureau of Prisons seeking clarification.

Kilpatrick also served 99 days in jail in 2008-2009 on state obstruction of justice charges and went to prison in 2010 for violating his probation. He was released about 14 months later.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, who has long argued that Kilpatrick should not be released early, blasted the decision.

“My position on the disgraced former Mayor of Detroit has not changed,” Schneider said in a statement. “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.”

Schneider said the 24 felony convictions will remain with Kilpatrick, despite the commutation.

“Thankfully, under Michigan law, he cannot hold state or local public office for 20 years after his conviction,” he added, calling Kilpatrick ”a notorious and unrepentant criminal.”

Kilpatrick, who was elected to office in 2001 and served until his resignation in 2008, was convicted in 2013 of racketeering conspiracy, fraud, extortion and tax crimes. The government called it the “Kilpatrick enterprise,” a yearslong scheme to shake down contractors and reward allies.

Kilpatrick’s lawyers had asked for a 15-year sentence, but U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds agreed with prosecutors and ordered an extraordinary 28-year term.

With credit for good behavior, Kilpatrick had been listed for release from the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, in 2037. His request for home confinement during the coronavirus pandemic was turned down in May.

Current Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a frequent Trump critic, applauded the commutation.

“Kwame Kilpatrick is a person of great talent who still has much to contribute,” Duggan, also a Democrat, said in a statement. “I know how close he is to his three sons and I could not be happier for them being together again. This is a decision President Trump got right.”

Kilpatrick’s first term as mayor was marred by accusations of misuse of city funds on personal extravagance. Nonetheless, he was reelected in 2005 and Detroit’s financial footing continued to erode during his second term.

Often wearing diamond earring studs and a wide-brimmed fedora, Kilpatrick reveled in the title of the city’s “Hip-Hop Mayor.” The image later dogged the married mayor when he found himself in a text-messaging sex scandal with his then-chief of staff.

Those text messages led to a criminal investigation in 2007 and state charges accusing Kilpatrick of perjury, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office in March 2008. He resigned as mayor in September that year, before his stints in jail and state prison.

Adolph Mongo, a Detroit-based political commentator who worked as a strategist on Kilpatrick’s 2005 reelection campaign, said he had hoped for the ex-mayor’s release.

“Trump is out of his mind, but he’s probably the only one who would do it,” Mongo said. “I wouldn’t expect Biden to do it. I didn’t think Hillary Clinton would do it.”

Kilpatrick’s long federal sentence is an example of how Blacks receive unequal treatment by some courts, Mongo added.

“I think he got a raw deal with the sentence,” Mongo said. “He’d never been in trouble and he got in a jam. Ten years — that might have been enough, but 28 years is ridiculous.”

The Rev. Keyon Payton, a Detroit-area minister who lobbied for Kilpatrick’s release, said he got the news Monday night that a commutation would be announced.

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” said Payton, who leads New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac, adding: “Twenty-eight years was far too long.”

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Associated Press writers Ed White in Detroit and Corey Williams in West Bloomfield, Michigan, contributed to this story.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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