Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick headed toward early release, lawmaker says
Detroit — After seven years in prison, Kwame Kilpatrick is headed toward an early release, according to a state lawmaker and foundation officials who have advocated on behalf of the former Detroit mayor.
State Rep. Karen Whitsett, D-Detroit, and officials with the Ebony Foundation, a national nonprofit that has advocated for his release for months, said Friday that Kilpatrick has been given an early release. A foundation official said he will be placed in his mother's custody on June 10 in Georgia.
No federal prison or White House officials would confirm the early release Friday afternoon.
But Whitsett told The Detroit News that she confirmed Friday with White House officials that Kilpatrick is one of 3,000 inmates who will be released under a White House initiative to lessen prison loads during the coronavirus pandemic.
Whitsett — who has gained national attention due to her praise of President Donald Trump’s push for hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 — said she spoke with Trump on Thursday while he was in Michigan and confirmed with the White House Friday.
“I think it’s only right,” Whitsett said. “He served his time, and I think the time that he was given was in excess.”
The Ebony Foundation sent out a press release Friday morning with the news.
"This is happening," said the Rev. Keyon S. Payton, national director for community outreach and engagement at the Ebony Foundation in an interview Friday. "After 25 days of quarantine, he will be released into the custody of his mother (former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick) in Atlanta, Georgia."
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit on Friday referred comment to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which only confirmed that Kilpatrick is currently at the Oakdale prison in Louisiana.
"For privacy, safety and security reasons, we do not discuss information about an individual inmate's conditions of confinement or release plans," said Scott Taylor, spokesman for the federal prison system, in an email inquiring about Kilpatrick's status.
While the foundation says Kilpatrick is still officially awaiting release, his federal court file indicates the decision has already been made and reads "defendant status: released" as of Friday afternoon.
The feds recently allowed Gary Sayers, owner of the Madison Heights "green ooze" site, to spend the rest of his term, which was to reach November, in home confinement. His federal court file has the same notation: "defendant status: released."
Lillian Diallo, vice president of the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar, said "that's all you can rely upon, is the court file. And the court file says released."
The federal prison system website still shows Kilpatrick at the Oakdale location with a release date of Jan. 18, 2037.
Kilpatrick, 49, has been serving a 28-year prison sentence after his conviction in 2013 on two dozen counts of using his positions as mayor and state representative to carry out a decade-long criminal racket involving extortion, bribery, conspiracy and fraud.
"He's not perfect. He's made some mistakes," Payton said. "But we felt the time he spent in prison was sufficient for the crimes he may have committed."
Kilpatrick has been serving time at Oakdale Federal Correctional Complex, a low-security federal prison in Oakdale, Louisana, which has had at least eight prisoners die of coronavirus, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
Asked Friday morning if he could confirm an early release, Harold Gurewitz, a lawyer who has represented Kilpatrick, texted that “I can not.”
Kilpatrick has sought clemency from Trump but didn't appear to meet the Justice Department's standards for considering a reduction of his prison sentence. State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, hand-delivered a letter to Trump from Detroit leaders seeking clemency for Kilpatrick in February.
In March, the foundation along with the National Baptist Convention of America, a coalition of more than 30 Black Megachurches and other national groups, called for Kilpatrick's early release, according to Friday's press release.
The foundation is the national nonprofit arm of Ebony Capital Partners, LLC, focusing on projects to combat mass incarceration and reunite families, including raise bail funds. Ebony magazine, Payton said, will run an exclusive interview with Kilpatrick upon his release.
The former mayor had exhaustively worked the appeals process for release but lost a bid to get out of federal prison in November when an appeals court rejected claims a biased judge oversaw his landmark racketeering case.
The order filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, came seven months after Kilpatrick claimed U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds had a conflict of interest and should have recused herself.
Edmunds presided over the six-month trial and sentenced Kilpatrick to the 28 years in prison for orchestrating a criminal enterprise out of City Hall.
During a five-month trial, prosecutors said Kilpatrick headed a criminal enterprise out of the Detroit mayoral office and steered $84 million in city contracts to friend Bobby Ferguson, who shared the proceeds with Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was also sentenced to federal prison for 15 months and was released in 2014 to a halfway house and subsequently to home confinement to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He was convicted of committing a tax crime that Edmunds said consisted of taking money and doing no work for contractors who were strong-armed by his son.