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President Trump commutes sentence for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick

kwame kilpatrick.jpeg
Posted at 1:35 AM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 20:51:21-05

WXYZ — In his final hours in office, President Trump has commuted the sentence of former Detroit Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

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The White House issued a statement around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning that said: "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, Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo of the Michigan House of Representatives, Representative 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."

Related: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan: Trump made 'right' decision to commute Kilpatrick's sentence
Related: Kwame Kilpatrick couldn't hold state or local office until 2033 under Michigan law

Kilpatrick, 49, has served seven years of a 28-year sentence on racketeering, extortion, bribery and other charges related to several crimes when he was Detroit mayor from 2002-2008.

Back in November, Ayanna Kilpatrick, sister of the former mayor, claimed her brother would get an early COVID-19 compassionate release from federal prison.

Kilpatrick was not excepted to be released from federal prison until Jan. 18, 2037.

Not on the list of pardons or commutations was his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, or his friend, Bobby Ferguson.

Bernard completed a 15-month sentence on a charge of subscribing false tax returns, while Ferguson is still in federal prison after getting a 21-year setenence.

In January, billionaire Peter Karmanos, a longtime friend of Kilpatrick, said he was working to get President Donald Trump to pardon the ex-mayor.

Then, in February, State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo delivered a letter to Trump signed by pastors and mayors requesting the sentence be commuted.

Because Kilpatrick was not pardoned, his conviction stands, meaning under Michigan law, he wouldn't be able to run for office for 20 years after the conviction, which came down in 2013.

Current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider released this statement:

“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. 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.”

Case background

On March 11, 2013, Kwame, Ferguson and Bernard were all convicted on several different charges.

Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 counts of extortion, mail fraud, tax violations and racketeering, Bobby Fergusonw as convicted on nine counts of racketeering and Bernard Kilpatrick was convicted on one count of filing a false tax return.

After the trial, which lasted five months, the jury deliberated for 14 days before delivering the verdict.

The feds alleged that Kwame Kilpatrick used his office as Detroit mayor to extort city contractors to include Ferguson in public contracts, and right the awarding of public contracts to ensure that Ferguson got at least some revenue.

In all, Ferguson got at least $83 million in revenue from city contracts through the scheme.

According to the feds, Kwame Kilpatrick held up a $50 million sewer lining contract until the company that won, Inland Waters, agreed to pay Ferguson. He allegedly got $24.7 million in contract revenue.

The feds also said that Kwame Kilpatrick defrauded donors by taking $250,000 in kickbacks from his fundraising director and used at least $200,000 in civic fund money for personal expenses.

During his time as mayor, the feds say Kwame Kilpatrick used over $840,000 in cash from the scheme to make deposits in his bank accounts, pay credit cards, purchase cashier's checks, and clothing, and to repay loans.

"Although this investigation spanned many years, this case is not about the past. It is about the future. This verdict has sent a powerful message that corruption will not be tolerated in this community. The people of Detroit deserve better and expect better. Candidates should seek public office to make a difference, not to make money for themselves," then-U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said after the conviction. She prosecuted the case.

Robert Foley III, who was the FBI Special Agent in Charge at the time, said in part, "The FBI Led Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force worked tirelessly to pursue and prosecute individuals associated with a criminal enterprise run for years out of the Detroit Mayor's Office. Due to the scope and complexity of the investigation, it was imperative to make sure no corners were cut and no stone was left unturned. With this conviction, the public can be reassured that no corrupt activity will be left unchecked."