The Michigan parole board voted Friday to release former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from state prison in late July, a decision that gives him plenty of time to prepare for a federal corruption trial that could land him back behind bars for years.
Kilpatrick, 41, will be freed from prison no earlier than July 24, said Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Kilpatrick quit office in 2008 when he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a case tied to his cover-up of an extramarital affair with his chief of staff. He has been in prison since May 2010 when a judge found he had misled authorities and failed to turn over certain assets toward his $1 million restitution to Detroit.
Parole cases typically are heard by three-member panels. Marlan said Kilpatrick's never got to a third member because the other two already were in favor of releasing him, including chairman Tom Combs.
"The two of them don't feel he would be a risk to society or a menace to the public," Marlan said. "He didn't get any misconducts in prison. He's been serving time for a non-violent crime. Those are things that probably played to his advantage."
The Wayne County prosecutor's office, which vigorously opposed Kilpatrick's release, had no comment on the decision.
Kilpatrick's parole request had been on hold since late May. At the time, Combs said he wanted more time to understand the federal corruption charges pending against the ex-mayor. People charged with felonies typically aren't granted parole, but the U.S. attorney's office had no objection to Kilpatrick being released.
"Mr. Kilpatrick's notoriety is not a factor in this at all," said Margaret Raben, former president of Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan. "With a few exceptions — violent crimes or sex crimes — most people are paroled at their first out date. We shouldn't be surprised."
Kilpatrick faces trial in September 2012 on a bushel of charges, including fraud, tax crimes and a racketeering conspiracy. After years of investigation, the government filed an 89-page indictment in December that describes a brazen pay-to-play scheme in which Kilpatrick and his father took kickbacks and bribes to steer city business to certain contractors.
Prosecutors call it the "Kilpatrick enterprise." Father and son have pleaded not guilty.
Kilpatrick still owes Detroit more than $800,000. A judge recently ordered that any profits from an upcoming book must be placed in escrow to whittle the debt. Marlan said Kilpatrick also will be required to make monthly restitution payments depending on his income after his release from prison.
Detroit resident Sylvia Brown, 57, said Kilpatrick should stay locked up until he sells enough books to pay the city.
"He needs to learn how to keep his mouth shut — and pay his bills," Brown said while picking up her dry cleaning after Friday's parole board vote was announced.
Em Allen of Detroit said Kilpatrick has been punished enough.
"Yeah, he was the mayor. Yeah, he was at the top. Let him out," the 48-year-old said outside a bar.
During a recent interview from prison, Kilpatrick told The Associated Press he wants to make amends.
"Any money that I make — any dime, any penny I make — will go to pay restitution," he said. "One of the things I've learned over the past year is to be a man of my word."