By Violet Ikonomova and Allan Lengel
After serving just seven years of a 28-year prison sentence for public corruption, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick may be headed home.
Kilpatrick, 49, has been granted a release from the bureau of prisons in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Ebony Foundation, an organization affiliated with Ebony Magazine that worked to secure his release.
His lawyer could not immediately confirm the report and Kilpatrick’s family could not be reached. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider issued a statement Friday night saying:"My office has not been told of any plans to release Kilpatrick."
Media reports said Kilpatrick was expected to be released in June after being quarantined for 14 days.
Ebony magazine reports that Kilpatrick is in quarantine and will be released June 10. He is expected to be released to his mother in the Atlanta area.
Pastor Keyon Payton, Ebony Foundation's outreach director, says its chairman and CEO spoke Thursday with Kilpatrick and White House representatives, who confirmed he was being released. Payton says the organization, which works on reducing the prison population, has been in conversations with the Trump administration about Kilpatrick since March. The Foundation originally said he had already been released.
“... While there has been a lot of debate about Kilpatrick’s guilt or innocence, we were arguing neither, rather, we were opposing the excessive nature and length of his sentence” Payton said in a statement. "Kwame Kilpatrick’s punishment of a 28-year sentence did not fit the crime.”
The Bureau of Prisons website shows he's still in custody.
The Bureau of Prisons says its policy requires inmates to quarantine for 14 days before being released.
The Detroit Free Press reports that Kilpatrick's former brother-in-law Daniel Ferguson III said Kilpatrick will be released from federal prison soon. Ferguson, who was married to Kilpatrick's sister Ayanna, said his ex-wife confirmed that the ex-mayor would be freed from the prison in Louisiana, a low-security federal prison. Kilpatrick's sister did not respond to emails from Deadline Detroit for comment.
State Rep. Karen Whitsett, D-Detroit tells the Detroit News that she confirmed Friday with White House officials that Kilpatrick is one of 3,000 inmates who will be released under a White House initiative to lessen prison loads during the coronavirus pandemic.
Veteran criminal defense lawyer Steve Fishman, who has never been involved in the case, said:
"What changes is his place of confinement. Rather than being subjected to the possibility of contracting a deadly disease in federal prison, he is confined to his home to serve the remainder of his sentence."
Some question how long Kilpatrick would serve the reminder of his 28-year sentence under home confinement.
The White House press office did not immediately respond to Deadline Detroit's questions about Kilpatrick.
WWJ and Fox 2 were the first to report on the foundation statement, and at the time, said they were working to confirm it.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan could not confirm the reports, but said at a Friday afternoon press conference: 'I'll be doing anything I can to help get him a fresh start."
The facility in Oakdale, about an hour from New Orleans, was the first federal prison to report a deadly coronavirus outbreak. As of a month ago, at least 100 inmates and staff were reportedly infected and seven prisoners had died.
About 2,500 prisoners — 1.5 percent of the federal corrections’ departments nearly 171,000 prisoners — have won early release since Attorney General William Barr two months ago ordered more be let out in response to the pandemic, the Marshall Project reported.
The Bureau of Prisons says it prioritizes inmates for release if they’ve served at least half their sentence. Kilpatrick falls short of that threshold, as did Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and his campaign manager Paul Manafort, who were freed last week.
The Bureau of Prisons issued a statement saying that Kilpatrick is still listed at the Oakdale, La., prison.