As President Barack Obama hands out clemency to hundreds of people given lengthy prison sentences during the era of the war on drugs, thousands of people are signing a petition asking for the same for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
More than 15,000 people had signed the petition on the website www.change.org as of today, arguing that Kilpatrick’s 28-year sentence on 24 federal criminal counts involving corruption in office is excessive and unfair. Kilpatrick was convicted in March 2013 following a lengthy jury trial on charges that included bribery, extortion, fraud and racketeering.
The petition, launched four months ago by a group calling itself the People for the Release of Kwame Kilpatrick, says the former mayor did wrong, but the sentence is too harsh for the crime.
“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 petition says.
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“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.”
One of the people to sign the petition is Yolanda McNab, 51, of Oak Park, who works as a data verifier for an insurance company.
“I don’t justify anything that he did,” McNab said. “I think he should have been sentenced. But you have other political figures who’ve done wrong and they didn’t get nearly that amount of time. I don’t agree with it at all — 28 years is ridiculous.”
In comments on the petition, others say Kilpatrick was sentenced so harshly because of his race.
Kilpatrick, 46, is in a federal prison in El Reno, Okla., with a scheduled release date in August 2037. The U.S. Supreme Court in June rejected Kilpatrick’s appeal of his sentence.
“This is yet another extremely intelligent black man that we are going to allow to rot away in prison,” the petition says. “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.”
Such petition requests submitted to Obama are referred to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which assists the president in investigation and review of executive clemency in federal cases. Clemency includes pardons, commutation of sentences and forgiveness of fines or restitution.
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