Kwame Kilpatrick will be freed from federal prison soon, his former brother-in-law reports

by 24USATVMay 22, 2020, 7:40 p.m. 18
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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will be freed from federal prison soon, according to his former brother-in-law.

Daniel Ferguson III, who was married to Kilpatrick's sister Ayanna, said his ex-wife confirmed to him that the disgraced former mayor would be freed from Oakdale, a low-security federal prison in Louisiana that was a hotbed for COVID-19.

To date, the 2,000-inmate prison has seen eight coronavirus deaths and 100 infections and was on a list of prisons ordered by the feds to speed up the removal of vulnerable inmates, according to the New York Times.

As word spread in Detroit political circles that Kilpatrick would be freed, Ferguson reached out to his former in-laws.

"I called Ayanna and she was so hysterical and going crazy that I knew it was true," said Ferguson, who still lives in Detroit. Kilpatrick's sister and mother, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, moved away from Detroit in recent years.

Ferguson said he also received an e-mail circulated among Kilpatrick supporters in which the former mayor wrote: "I am well, it's on ... See you all soon ... LOL Lord have mercy. LOL"

Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Scott Taylor would not comment on Kilpatrick's status beyond confirming that he is an inmate at Oakdale.

"For privacy, safety and security reasons, we do not discuss information about an individual inmate's conditions of confinement or release plans," he said.

The U.S. Attorneys office in Detroit, which was stumped by this development Friday morning, declined comment pending further review of the situation.

Kilpatrick, 49, was not eligible to be released until 2037 for his crimes that a federal jury convicted him of in 2013.

News of his release comes six weeks after U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered prison officials to speed up the release of “vulnerable inmates” at multiple prisons fighiting virus outbreaks, including the Oakdale facility where Kilpatrick is at. He had previously suggested home confinement for these inmates.

"I am hereby directing you to ... grant home confinement for inmates seeking transfer in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," Barr wrote in a March letter to prison officials. "For some eligible inmates, home confinement might be more effective in protecting their health."

Barr's letter did not mention specific inmates.Asked at his regular news briefing about Kilpatrick, Mayor Mike Duggan, a long-time Kilpatrick ally, said that if it's true Kilpatrick is getting out: "I'll be doing anything I can to help him get a fresh start."

Duggan said he has known Kilpatrick since the former mayor was in high school. At the time, Duggan was a top aide to then-Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara and Kilpatrick's father Bernard was a Wayne County Commissioner. Kilpatrick graduated from Detroit's Cass Technical High School in 1987.

EBONY Foundation, which has been lobbying for Kilpatrick's release, announced on Friday that Kilpatrick "has been granted early release" amid COVID-19 fears.

More: Michigan lawmaker hopes letter to Donald Trump will get Kwame Kilpatrick out of prison

More: US Attorney: Kwame Kilpatrick shouldn't get pardon. He got what he deserved.

Kilpatrick's appellate lawyer, Harold Gurewitz, said Friday morning that had not heard his client had been released.

"I am also attempting to find out if the (Bureau of Prisons) has taken any step toward releasing Kwame from FCI Oakdale, which has had an unacceptably high incidence of COVID 19 cases and deaths," Gurewitz said.

EBONY Foundation announcement came three months after U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider -- a Trump appointee -- vowed to fight any early release for Kilpatrick, telling the Free Press that Kilpatrick got what he deserved.

"So far, Mr. Kilpatrick has shown absolutely no remorse for his crimes. He denies any responsibility for the 24 federal felony offenses of which he was convicted, and he has served only one quarter of his sentence," Schneider told the Free Press in February, one day after Trump granted clemency to 11 convicted criminals, including former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Schneider, a Trump appointee, also had pledged to fight to keep Kilpatrick in prison.

"My office is willing to provide any assistance to the Pardon Attorney to explain what really happened in Detroit under Mr. Kilpatrick’s watch ... As the elected mayor, he ran a criminal enterprise that corrupted wide swaths of city government in the early 2000s — at a time when city residents desperately needed honest and effective city services," Schneider said.

Kilpatrick supporters, however, disagreed. In March, EBONY, in coordination with the National Baptist Convention of America, the NAACP, National Business League, and a coalition of over 30 Black Megachurches called for Kilpatrick's early release. Detroit leaders delivered a letter to President Donald Trump seeking clemency for Kilpatrick.

The coalition’s plea referenced the president’s recent pardons and commutations and the "extremity" of Kilpatrick’s sentence. It was also cited the April 25 coronavirus death of Kilpatrick's fellow inmate, Patrick Jones, 49, who was serving a 27-year sentence for a drug-related crime when he became ill at the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana.

“Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for his crimes. And while there has been a lot of debate about his guilt or innocence, we were arguing neither, rather, we were opposing the excessive nature and length of his sentence. Kwame Kilpatrick’s punishment of a 28-year sentence did not fit the crime.” says Rev. Keyon S. Payton, National Director, Community Outreach and Engagement.

Kilpatrick has long argued that he was wrongfully convicted and railroaded by overzealous prosecutors. He sought numerous appeals but lost them all.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

Kilpatrick, though, never gave up and most recently sought commutation from President Trump, using his past connection to a powerful businessman, Pete Karmanos, who lobbied to get Kilpatrick out.

Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who oversaw the 2013 prosecution of Kilpatrick and once told the Free Press that he could have had it worse. McQuade noted that his sentencing guidelines called for life in prison, but prosecutors thought that was excessive and recommended 28 years instead.

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