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Bankole: Kilpatrick pardon is a long shot

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Since the U.S. Supreme Court refusal in June to allow a new trial for Kwame Kilpatrick, the former Detroit mayor who is serving a 28-year federal sentence for public corruption, his supporters have now turned to President Barack Obama for help.

A petition has garnered more than 12,000 signatures urging Obama to shorten Kilpatrick’s prison term before the president exits the White House.

“Prior to you Mr. Obama, I had not believed a black man could be president until I saw how Kwame galvanized the City of Detroit and without his mistakes the sky could have been the limit for him. 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 ’50s because labor costs, white flight and the decline of the Big 3 automotive companies,” the petition reads.

“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. I plead with you to support change for Kwame. This is yet another extremely intelligent black man that we are going to allow to rot away in prison.”

In the petition, an argument is made to reduce the sentence handed down in 2013 and even humanizes Kilpatrick by admitting he did wrong.

But the problem is that the man the petition is seeking a pardon for has yet to admit that he was wrong. Kilpatrick went to trial as an elected official and despite his conviction by a jury for abusing his office, he has never accepted responsibility for the actions that led to his conviction.

Throughout a trial that became one of the most explosive public corruption cases in history filled with intrigues, plots and timelines prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, Kilpatrick was defiant to the end maintaining he was innocent.

Not once did he take ownership for what federal prosecutors meticulously laid out with extensive detail and corroborating witnesses.

In the process Kilpatrick not only shattered his life but also the lives of many associated with him including some young and brilliant African-Americans like Kandia Milton. Milton, who served as the mayor’s liason to the Detroit City Council once had a promising career before he was sentenced to 14 months in prison in a bribery scheme as a member of the Kilpatrick cabal.

Some of Kilpatrick’s supporters have blamed racism for his downfall. Some even suggest the trial was a conspiracy to get him out of office by the white power elites of Detroit.

Yet if the race theory was true, Kilpatrick never thought so because he was a favorite among white elites, including former Compuware CEO Peter Karmanos, Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert, PVS Chemicals CEO Jim Nicholson and Penske Corp. founder Roger Penske, who loaned him $240,000 in the middle of the scandal. That benevolent act could be viewed as a golden parachute for a man who was the golden boy among Detroit’s business class. The average black man facing a similar fate would not have gotten that kind of assistance from the economic power structure.

Obama could pardon Kilpatrick if the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney certifies the petition of meeting the requirements for seeking a presidential pardon.

John Maxwell, the author-lecturer on leadership, said, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes.”

Is Kilpatrick big enough to accept his role in the corruption case that landed him in jail?

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910AM weekdays at noon. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.