Disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will not be freed 21 years early, as his family and supporters said would happen, after the federal Bureau of Prisons on Tuesday announced they had denied his application for home confinement.
A little-known non-profit called the Ebony Foundation set off a frenzy Friday morning that Kilpatrick would be released after serving just seven years of a 28-year sentence for public corruption.
Michigan state representatives Sherry Gay-Dagnogo and Karen Whitsett, both Detroit Democrats who had personally appealed to President Donald Trump for Kilpatrick's release, said the former mayor would be freed from Oakdale low-security prison in Louisiana on June 10. As the story went, he would be allowed to stay at his mother's home in Georgia on home confinement because the Bureau of Prisons had been ordered to release prisoners in facilities with coronavirus outbreaks, like Kilpatrick's.
The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on Kilpatrick's status Friday. But late Tuesday, it issued a statement that devastated Kilpatrick's supporters: "On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, the federal Bureau of Prisons reviewed and denied inmate Kwame Kilpatrick for home confinement. Mr. Kilpatrick remains incarcerated at the federal correctional institution in Oakdale, Louisiana."
Gay-Dagnogo, who earlier this year hand-delivered a letter on Kilpatrick's behalf to Trump during a White House event, said late Tuesday: "I'm very disappointed and want to know why a sitting president would lie."
Whitsett said Friday that Trump had told her during a visit to Michigan the day before that Kilpatrick would be freed.
Daniel Ferguson III said Friday that his ex-wife, who is Kilpatrick's sister Ayanna, confirmed her brother would be released early. He said he also saw an e-mail Kilpatrick sent last week to friends and family that said: "I am well, it's on ... See you all soon ... LOL Lord have mercy. LOL"
But neither Kilpatrick's Detroit lawyer, Harold Gurewitz, nor U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, who presides over the Eastern District of Michigan, had heard anything about Kilpatrick's release, which was presumed to be predicated on an order from U.S. Attorney William Barr. Barr last month ordered officials in prisons like Oakdale to release as many prisoners as possible on home confinement, citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in some federal facilities.
Had Kilpatrick been released, he would have served merely 25 percent of the sentence he received in 2013 after a federal jury convicted him on 24 counts of public corruption ranging from racketeering to extortion to fraud.
The Ebony Foundation claimed it had been pushing for Kilpatrick's freedom since January, when a request for clemency was sent to Trump on Kilpatrick's behalf. That clemency request is pending.
Whitsett recounted her conversation about Kilpatrick with Trump for the Free Press on Friday: Trump "said that he was being released."
"I'm elated for him'" she said then of the former mayor. "He's done his time. And I think, 'My God, when is long enough long enough?' "
Neither Whitsett nor the Ebony Foundation could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors who won convictions against Kilpatrick in U.S. District Court in 2013 were skeptical.
Schneider, who served in the U.S. Attorney's office from 2003-2011 and was appointed to run the office in 2018 by the Trump administration, responded to queries by saying only that no one had informed his office that Kilpatrick was being granted an early release.
Typically, when a federal prisoner is getting such a break, the local prosecutor's office is given a courtesy heads up from the Department of Justice.
The White House and Department of Justice had declined comment on Kilpatrick's sentence and request for release but, finally, it was the Bureau of Prisons that put the rumor to rest.
At least for now.
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