More than 20,000 people have signed a request at change.org
campaign to reduce the sentence for the former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick. The disgraced politician is currently serving a 28-year sentence on 24 federal criminal counts involving corruption while serving the people of Detroit. Launched four months ago by a group that calls itself “People for the Release of Kwame Kilpatrick,” the petition contends that Kilpatrick’s sentence is excessive and unfair.
The petition acknowledges Kilpatrick’s wrongdoing, for which he was convicted in March 2013 on charges that included bribery, extortion, fraud, and racketeering. The petition states, “He gave the city hope again, brought investments in and he truly did make a positive impact in a community that had been headed for destruction since the 50's because labor costs, white flight and the decline of the Big 3 automotive companies.”
The ungrammatical petition states, “I recognize that yes, Kwame is not without fault and has done wrong and should have to pay for what he has done, but let us remember that we are not talking about a career criminal. We are talking about a man with multiple degrees who rose to mayor in one of the major cities in the country when he could have fled the ruins of Detroit and taken his talents to Washington or the private sector. Instead he took the rains (sic) of a sinking ship and did a better job than anyone could have expected.”
Some comments on the petition say that Kilpatrick received a disproportionately long sentence because he is an African-American. “This is yet another extremely intelligent black man that we are going to allow to rot away in prison,” the petition states. “Everyone deserves a second chance and I believe the City of the Detroit will be a better place with OUR Son out of prison and back home doing the work to rebuild his family, city and his reputation. Kwame is just too smart to be in prison and it is a disservice and an atrocity to lock him away for that long.”
The 46-year-old Kilpatrick is currently serving time at El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is due to be released in August 2037. When Kilpatrick appealed his sentence, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected it.
The petition has been submitted to the White House, which in turn refers such petitions to the Office of the Pardon Attorney of the Department of Justice. Clemency offered by the DOJ includes pardons, commutation of sentences, and forgiveness of fines or restitution. As of October 27, President Obama has granted 872 commutations to federal inmates during his presidency. During this year alone, Obama commuted sentences for 688 — the most ever granted by a president in a single year.
The White House has touted Obama's actions are part of his effort to use his constitutional powers to rectify what he believes are overly-harsh sentences imposed during the so-called "War on Drugs." Beginning in 2014, Obama has effectively re-sentenced hundreds of non-violent drug dealers to the sentences they would have received under today's more lenient sentencing guidelines. However, his 70 pardons have not yet equaled those of his immediate predecessors: Ronald Reagan (393), Bill Clinton (396), and George W. Bush (189). Obama has been asked to pardon various individuals, including former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, former Pvt. Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning, convicted murderers Assata Shakur, and Leonard Peltier.
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