DETROIT, MICHIGAN – On early Wednesday morning the 72nd mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, received a presidential pardon from Donald Trump. Kilpatrick was a key feature of Trump’s 11th hour wave of pardons, his last before leaving office.
Kilpatrick now walks free 20 years early from a 28-year sentence stemming from a conviction on charges including mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering. Kilpatrick had served out eight years of his sentence at FCI Oakdale in Oakdale, Louisiana.
Kilpatrick’s downfall began with a scandal that surfaced in 2003. Deputy Chief Gary Brown claimed Kilpatrick fired him for investigating rumors of a wild party involving strippers at the Manoogian Mansion, the official residence of the Detroit mayor.
Former members of the Executive Protection Unit claimed Kilpatrick’s wife came home unexpectedly and attacked one of the exotic dancers. The dancer was later found shot to death in her car. Investigators believed it was a deliberate hit made by the Detroit Police Department.
In September of 2007, Brown and ex-bodyguard Harold Nelthrope filed a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging they were fired for starting an internal probe into Kilpatrick’s personal life, specifically an alleged affair with his chief-of-staff, Christine Beatty. Under oath, Kilpatrick expressed disgust with the allegations.
“I think it was pretty demoralizing to her—you have to know her—but it’s demoralizing to me as well,” he said. “My mother is a congresswoman. There have always been strong women around me. My aunt is a state legislator. I think it’s absurd to assert that every woman that works with a man is a whore. I think it’s disrespectful not just to Christine Beatty but to women who do a professional job that they do every single day. And it’s also disrespectful to their families as well.”
A jury ruled in favor of Brown and Nelthrope. Kilpatrick swore to appeal. Soon, fiery text messages between Kilpatrick and Beatty were uncovered, revealing the two did have an affair and that they had committed perjury. Kilpatrick promptly dropped the appeal and agreed to an $8.2 million dollar settlement. After the messages were leaked for the public, Kilpatrick held a televised apology speech at his church.
“To all of you who have prayed for me, I’m sorry, for the embarrassment and the disappointment.” he said. Kilpatrick said the lawsuit was racially-motivated, characterizing it as ‘lynch mob mentality.’
Kilpatrick’s widespread support quickly crumbled away throughout the Detroit community and city council. Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy announced 8 felony charges against Kilpatrick that included perjury, misconduct in office, and obstruction of justice.
Later, Kilpatrick was once again the focus of widespread negative attention after allegedly shoving a deputy and making an unauthorized trip to Windsor, which landed him in Wayne county jail.
In September of 2008, Kilpatrick plead guilty to two counts of Obstruction of Justice. Under his plea agreement, he was sentenced to 120 days in jail, forced to resign from office, and was order to pay $1 million dollars in restitution.
Two years later, in 2010, judge David Groner found Kilpatrick violated his probation by failing to report assets and turn over tax refunds. Kilpatrick was sentenced to up to 5 years in prison.
Meanwhile, the feds were building a case against Kilpatrick. Charges began to pile up against his colleagues, including contractor Bobby Ferguson and childhood friend Derrick Miller who plead guilty to two counts including accepting bribes and filing a false tax return. Miller cooperated with authorities, assisting them in their federal case against Kilpatrick.
The corruption case against Kilpatrick lasted for months in a federal court – with a jury deliberating for 14 days.
On March 11th, 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 counts including racketeering, extortion, bribery, wire fraud, and tax evasion. The jury unanimously returned guilty counts, stating that Kilpatrick used his position as mayor to enrich himself, extorted contractors, and misused civic funds.
While in prison, Kilpatrick appealed multiple times, continuously being denied. Then, he began to seek a federal pardon from President Trump.
With less than 12 hours remaining in his term, then-President Donald Trump issued a massive wave of over 140 pardons, with 50-year-old Kilpatrick being one of the more notable names. The White House statement on Kilpatrick’s pardon read: “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.”
Kilpatrick will not be able to run for public office in Michigan again until 2033.