Judge goes off on Kwame Kilpatrick: You haven’t changed

If former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was looking for mercy from U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, he not only didn’t get it; he got chastised.

In a blistering court opinion, Edmunds on Thursday denied Kilpatrick’s request to end his supervised release early so he could travel more freely as a pastor. Edmunds concluded that Kilpatrick hasn’t proven himself a changed man, still lives lavishly while ignoring his debts and refuses to acknowledge responsibility for the corruption crimes of which he was convicted a decade ago.

“(Kilpatrick) asserts that early termination of his supervised release is warranted because he has matured and learned from his mistakes; has worked hard to become a responsible, law-abiding, and productive citizen; and accepts responsibility for his criminal conduct,” Edmunds wrote in her five-page opinion.

Edmunds disagreed.

“(Kilpatrick) committed very serious crimes, and he still owes a significant amount of restitution,” Edmunds wrote, noting Kilpatrick owes more than $192,000 to the IRS. “And (Kilpatrick) has a history of spending his money on a lavish lifestyle rather than paying off his obligations. (He) has only made a little over $5,000 in payments towards his restitution obligation in this case. Yet, as recently as 2022, (Kilpatrick) and his wife sought to raise $800,000 to purchase a residence in a gated, luxury community in Orlando, Florida.”

Edmunds continued:

“While that effort was later canceled, it demonstrates a desire to resume his former lifestyle, rather than a focus on repaying the debts he owes.”

Edmunds also criticized Kilpatrick for — as she put it — “flatly” denying responsibility for his crimes.

“(Kilpatrick’s) own recent statements to the media belie the assertion that he “unequivocally accepts responsibility for his criminal conduct,” Edmunds wrote in her order, citing a prior interview on the “Today” show, during which Kilpatrick admitted “committing perjury and lying about his extramarital affair, but flatly denied committing the 24 federal crimes of which he was found guilty.”

“Such statements undermine society’s faith in our criminal justice system and do not show an acceptanceof responsibility,” wrote Edmunds, who a decade ago sentenced Kilpatrick to 28 years in prison, though he got out early in 2021 after then-President Donald Trump granted him clemency.

Although Kilpatrick was freed from prison in 2021, Trump’s gift of clemency did not vacate the three years of supervised release that Kilpatrick had been ordered to serve in 2013. In December, Kilpatrick asked Edmunds to end that oversight, arguing he had proven himself a changed man.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick exits the U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Detroit on Monday March 11, 2013, after the jury handed down a verdict in his public corruption trial.
Edmunds, though, disagreed.

It was Edmunds who handed down one of the nation’s stiffest public corruption sentences in 2013 when she ordered Kilpatrick to spend 28 years in federal prison for a slew of crimes. Against Kilpatrick’s wishes, Edmunds also ordered the former mayor jailed immediately after a jury convicted him on 24 of 32 counts, for crimes including bribery, conspiracy, extortion and fraud.

Kilpatrick appealed his conviction and sentence numerous times, but lost all appeals.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow, the lead prosecutor in the 2013 Kilpatrick trial and former chief of the government’s public corruption unit, scoffed at the ex-mayor’s latest request to end court oversight.

After learning of Judge Edmunds’ decision on Thursday, Chutkow, who is now in private practice, said this of Kilpatrick: “He hit the jackpot when the former president let him out of prison well before other public officials who committed similar or less serious crimes. He should be grateful for this special treatment, not asking for more. “

Former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider echoed similar sentiments.

“Kilpatrick asked the court for something he didn’t deserve and had no realistic argument for obtaining. Chutzpah is too soft of a word to describe that — it’s more like aloof arrogance,” Schneider said in a statement to the Free Press.

Kilpatrick, meanwhile, still owes more than $854,000 in restitution to the city of Detroit stemming from the text-message scandal that was exposed by the Free Press, triggered criminal charges and led to Kilpatrick’s resignation. According to Wayne County Court records, he hasn’t paid a dime toward that restitution in 10 years.

Kilpatrick’s lawyer, Grosse Pointe attorney Brandon Byrd, could not be reached for comment. Previously, he has maintained that Kilpatrick has done “everything in his power to rehabilitate himself,” and has satisfied his $1.5 million restitution debt from the federal case through the liquidation of his codefendant Bobby Ferguson’s assets.

Edmunds also denied Ferguson’s request to have his supervised release terminated, concluding he “committed very serious crimes and still owes a significant amount of restitution.”

Ferguson owes $2.6 million in restitution to the city of Detroit stemming from crimes he committed while his friend was mayor. According to Edmunds, he has been paying $100 a month toward that debt.

Ferguson and Kilpatrick were accused of running a criminal enterprise through the mayor’s office by corrupting contracts, steering work to Ferguson and fostering a climate of fear in the contractor world. A main theme argued at trial was that if you wanted to do work in the city of Detroit, you had to include Ferguson, or risk losing deals.

Ferguson was sentenced to 21 years in prison for his crimes, but was granted compassionate release in 2021 after Kilpatrick was granted clemency.

Since his release from prison, Ferguson has resumed a quiet life, mentoring youths, going to church and spending time with his nine grandchildren — a 10th is on the way.

He had little to say after learning Edmunds had denied his request to end supervised release, but he did express gratitude to the judge — who two years ago granted him compassionate release.

“I am grateful and appreciative for Judge Edmunds releasing me and allowing me to be back with my family,” Ferguson told the Free Press. “It’s a blessing.”

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