Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was pardoned and freed from federal prison just prior to Donald Trump’s exit from the White House. But Bobby Ferguson, his co-defendant in the 2013 corruption case that landed him in jail, remains imprisoned and says it isn’t right that he is not free.
"Tell me how it makes any sense that Kilpatrick is out and Bobby is still in?" Ferguson’s defense lawyer Mike Rataj said to the Detroit Free Press in January. "It should have been a package deal. It's just really unfair that Bobby still has to do 10 more years, and Kilpatrick got 20 years shaved off?”
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Kilpatrick was originally sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for a racketeering scandal that destroyed his political career and took him out of office. Ferguson got 22 years for his part in it, while others got lesser sentences. He had appealed before but did not win.
They were convicted of running a criminal enterprise from the mayor’s office in Detroit through corrupted contracts, steering city contracts toward Ferguson, and intimidating other contractors. His defense at the time argued that Ferguson’s business was honest and Kilpatrick had nothing to do with the awarding of contracts.
Kilpatrick served seven years before his sentence was commuted. That came after a lengthy campaign to get him freed from many in Detroit who felt his sentence was too harsh.
Ferguson’s lawyers filed a motion on Tuesday (March 30) with U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, requesting compassionate release, and saying the sentence handed to him was too much compared with Kilpatrick’s.
"The fact that Mr. Kilpatrick is now a free man and Mr. Ferguson still has to serve 10 more years is a sentencing disparity — created entirely by the Executive — that cannot be countenanced by this Honorable Court," Rataj and attorney Gerald Evelyn said in the filing, according to the Free Press. "What makes Mr. Ferguson’s current situation extraordinary and compelling is that it was the Executive Branch — which includes the Department of Justice — that partially created this gross sentencing disparity."
They also argued that he suffers from medical conditions, including an injury to his lung from being shot in the chest years ago, meaning more risk of coronavirus infection while in prison.
Kilpatrick has moved in with his family in suburban Atlanta. He is prohibited by Michigan state law from running for public office for 20 years after his conviction. Although Trump commuted his sentence, he still owed $4.7 million in restitution due to the federal case against him.
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