Donald Trump, in his last hours as president, commuted the sentence of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who had been convicted in 2013 on multiple corruption charges, and issued a full pardon to hip-hop superstar Lil’ Wayne early Wednesday. (Jan. 20).
The move, announced by the White House, comes as part of a wave of 73 pardons and 70 commutations the president has granted to mark his exit.
Kilpatrick, 50, had resigned from office after a text messaging scandal had revealed an illicit affair with his chief of staff. Further investigation revealed a litany of illegal activity and he was eventually convicted on 24 federal felony counts, which included mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering and was sentenced to 28 years behind bars. Over the past year, rumors had been floated that he would be released from federal prison due to risk of coronavirus, but none of them turned out to be true.
He had appealed several times, but each of those attempts failed. Michigan State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo had even hand delivered a letter asking for Kilpatrick’s release during a White House event in February 2020.
“Mr. Kilpatrick has served approximately 7 years in prison for his role in a racketeering and bribery scheme while he held public office,” the White House statement reads. “During his incarceration, Mr. Kilpatrick has taught public speaking classes and has led Bible Study groups with his fellow inmates.”
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Meanwhile, Lil’ Wayne, 38, whose real name is Dwayne Carter, will not go to prison due to Trump’s pardon. He pleaded guilty last month to a federal charge of possession of a weapon despite having been a convicted felon, when a handgun was found on his chartered jet after landing in Miami in December 2019.
According to the Associated Press, the “A Milli” rapper admitted having the gold-plated handgun and six rounds of ammunition, which was found in his luggage. He posted $250,000 bail and had his passport taken by authorities. His hearing had been scheduled for Jan. 28, and he faced 10 years in prison if convicted.
But during Trump’s campaign last year, Wayne tweeted photos of himself and the president afer a meeting in an apparent show of support and said he backed Trump’s “Platinum Plan” which addressed criminal justice reform and economic opportunity with Black people in America. The endorsement garnered wide criticism, but Wayne never changed his mind.
Wayne’s backing seems to have been enough for Trump to grant him the commutation and help him avoid another conviction. He served eight months in New York on weapons charges and was released in 2010.
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“Mr. Carter has exhibited this generosity through commitment to a variety of charities, including donations to research hospitals and a host of foodbanks,” reads the White House statement. “Deion Sanders, who also wrote in support of this pardon, calls Mr. Wayne “a provider for his family, a friend to many, a man of faith, a natural giver to the less fortunate, a waymaker, [and] a game changer.”
In addition to Kilpatrick, and Lil’ Wayne, another high profile conviction, rapper Kodak Black, 23, has also received a commutation from Trump. Like Wayne’ he tweeted an endorsement of the Platinum Plan, but while serving a 46-month sentence in Florida for falsifying information on federal forms to buy guns in Miami.
“Before his conviction and after reaching success as a recording artist, Kodak Black became deeply involved in numerous philanthropic efforts,” said the statement. “In fact, he has committed to supporting a variety of charitable efforts, such as providing educational resources to students and families of fallen law enforcement officers and the underprivileged.”
Howver, there are other charges against Black, whose legal name is Bill Kapri, including sexual assault that are still pending, according to The Washington Post.
Other notable people on Trump’s list of pardons or commutations include Michael “Harry O” Harris, co-founder of Death Row Records, imprisoned for cocaine trafficking and attempted murder; Jawad Musa, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on a non-violent drug offense; Ferrell Scott, who was sentenced to a life term for marijuana possession with intent to distribute; and Syrita Steib-Martin, who was sentenced to 10 years on a charge of stealing a car from a Texas auto dealer, which burned down in the incident. After serving her term, she co-founded Operation Restoration, which helps formerly imprisoned women and girls with reentry. Trump commuted her sentence.
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The acts are just a few of dozens that Trump moved forward with in his last few hours in office. Although it had been rumored that he might pardon himself, that did not happen. Nor were there pre-emptive pardons for members of his family, including sons Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump, or his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
But among other high profile cases, he did pardon Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, who was facing federal charges of defrauding donors who were supposed to have been giving money to Trump’s border wall effort. But he did not pardon Sheldon Silver, the former New York Assembly speaker, who was imprisoned on corruption charges last year,
Presidential pardons are common for outgoing chief executives. In 2017, President Barack Obama granted clemency to 273 federal inmates, including Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence officer who was convicted of giving sensitive information to WikiLeaks, which publishes secret information and government news leaks.
Photo Credits: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images; BET Awards 2020/Getty Images via Getty Images