Advance Notice: Briefs

Trump commutes Kwame Kilpatrick’s sentence before departing office

By: - January 20, 2021 10:15 am

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (C) appears in Wayne County Circuit Court for his sentencing October 28, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan. | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Outgoing President Donald Trump on late Tuesday evening commuted the sentence of disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick more than 20 years before it was scheduled to end.

It was part of a series of last-minute pardons and commutations for longtime allies, like former top adviser Steve Bannon, and others, like Kilpatrick, who had champions within Trump’s orbit.

Kilpatrick, 50, was convicted in federal court in 2013 on several public corruption crimes. His sentence was 28 years. Kilpatrick resigned as Detroit mayor in 2008. He served as state House Democratic leader prior to becoming mayor in 2002. Last spring, Kilpatrick was turned down for home confinement during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo at the bipartisan expungement press conference in Detroit, Sept. 9, 2019 | Ken Coleman

“President Trump commuted the sentence of the former Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick,” a White House statement read. “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.”

In all, Trump granted pardons to 73 people and commuted the sentences of an additional 70 individuals. Gay-Dagnogo told the Advance on Wednesday that she’s excited about Kilpatrick eminient release. She visited the White House last year to lobby for Kilpatrick. 

“Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been given an opportunity for redemption,” Gay-Dagnogo, a former state House member and current Detroit Board of Education member. “It is no mistake that he is a brilliant leader, certainly he committed crimes, he has atoned and paid for his crimes and the time that he received was excessive.”

Matthew Schneider, U.S. attorney for Michigan’s Eastern District, disagreed with the Trump White House. 

“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.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.