Local Detroit TV news station Fox-2 is reporting that State Rep. Karen Whitsett said President Donald Trump told her former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick would be released soon. Fox-2 said it had not yet confirmed whether Whitsett’s account regarding the White House is accurate.
Kilpatrick was sent to prison following his conviction for bribery, extortion and tax crimes in 2013, for which he was sentenced to 28 years in prison, CBS Detroit reported. The 49-year-old was transferred from a New Jersey facility in December of 2019, according to Detroit News, to Louisiana‘s Oakdale Federal Correctional Complex. The Bureau of Prisons has reported that 91 inmates and 13 staff at the complex have contracted coronavirus and eight prisoners have died after contracting the disease at Oakdale.
Ebony Foundation, a national non-profit, has been advocating for Kilpatrick’s release since at least March, and has called on Trump to grant Kilpatrick clemency. Detroit News reported that Ebony Foundation leaders are stating that a deal has already been struck to release Kilpatrick. According to the report, Kilpatrick would be released into his mother’s custody in Georgia on June 10 as part of a compassionate release.
Rev. Keyon S. Payton, Ebony Foundation’s national director for community outreach and engagement, told Detroit News, “This is happening … After 25 days of quarantine, he will be released into the custody of his mother … in Atlanta, Georgia.”
Kilpatrick’s Legal Troubles Lasted Years, Judge Said
The Democratic mayor had been plagued by legal issues since 2008, when he agreed to a plea deal over text messaging scandal involving his chief of staff Christine Beatty. Both Kilpatrick and Beatty were charged with perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and helping to cover up a case involving police misconduct. Kilpatrick admitted to the perjury and his plea deal included resigning from office, paying $1 million in restitution, surrendering his law license and serving four months in jail, NPR reported.
After Kilpatrick’s 2013 conviction, sentencing Judge Nancy Edmunds said his “criminal enterprise” lasted from when he was in Detroit’s House of Representatives through his years as mayor, Detroit CBS News reported. One of the accusations was that Kilpatrick sent costly building projects to his personal friend and businessman Bobby Ferguson, which then put other contractors out of businesses.
“Kilpatrick and Ferguson established a “pay to play” system that made breaking the law standard operating procedure,” according to the FBI. “Kilpatrick extorted city vendors, rigged bids, and took bribes. He used funds from non-profit civic organizations to line his pockets and those of his family. And he was unabashed about it.”
According to the FBI, Kilpatrick was put under investigation in 2004, two years after he became mayor of Detroit. Through wiretaps, IRS cooperation and undercover agents, the FBI eventually discovered that Kilpatrick had $840,000 in unexplained expenditures.
Before his sentencing, Kilpatrick gave profuse apologies for his behavior, which included having an affair with Beatty:
We’ve been stuck in this town for a very long time over me, and I’m ready to let go so the city can move on. People here are suffering, they’re hurting and a great deal of that hurt I accept full responsibility for … I really, really, really messed up.
The City Faced Its Own Crisis After Kilpatrick’s Trial
Detroit News reported that Kilpatrick “steered more than $73 million worth of city contracts to his friend, contractor Bobby Ferguson.” In an interview with Edmunds, the judge who sentenced Kilpatrick, Detroit News reported that she believed the revelations about Kilpatrick helped demoralize an already-struggling city.
It contributed to the shredding of the fabric that was holding the city together … I’m not saying any of the activity that he was convicted of led to the bankruptcy. I think it was more a demoralization engendered by the pay-to-play system.
Detroit declared bankruptcy four months after Kilpatrick’s sentencing in July 2013. At the time, the city’s $18 million bankruptcy was the largest municipal bankruptcy in the U.S., according to Vox.
The city had 100,000 creditors it was indebted to, including retirees, banks and bond insurers, which were all itemized in a list by the Huffington Post. According to that reporting, the largest shares of debt came from obligations backed by enterprise revenue ($6.4 billion) and non-pension related, post-employment benefits ($5.7-6.4 billion).
The bankruptcy helped Detroit reduce its debt by $7 billion and five years later, the city had pulled itself out of debt and was on its way to a comeback, NPR reported.