Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick walked free from a state prison early Tuesday after serving just over a year for violating probation in a 2008 criminal case.
A relative escorted Kilpatrick from a Southern Michigan Prison facility in Jackson to a sport utility vehicle waiting outside. Kilpatrick smiled but did not address reporters as he climbed into the SUV, which headed toward the Detroit area under police escort.
In a statement issued ahead of his release, Kilpatrick thanked all those who prayed for him and said he would speak openly about his time behind bars after he has reunited with his family. He planned to rejoin his wife and three sons near Dallas, where his parole will be overseen by Texas authorities.
“Detroit, I will return to speak frankly with you about this experience because it has affected all of us,” he said in the statement.
Before leaving the prison, Kilpatrick changed into his own clothing: jeans and a peach-colored shirt, state Corrections Department spokesman John Cordell said. Kilpatrick’s brother-in-law, Daniel Ferguson, and a lawyer greeted the former mayor and walked him outside, Cordell said.
Cordell said Kilpatrick told them: “It’s good to be out. I’m on my way.”
The 41-year-old Kilpatrick was released on parole but still faces a federal corruption trial that could send him back to prison.
Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and resigned from office as part of a plea deal in 2008. A judge found he had lied at a civil trial to cover up an extramarital affair with his chief of staff – in a lawsuit that cost Detroit $8.4 million.
The former mayor was imprisoned in May 2010 for failing to disclose assets and surrender sufficient funds that could have reduced his $1 million restitution to the city. Kilpatrick still owes Detroit more than $800,000 and a judge recently ordered that all profits from his upcoming book be placed in escrow to help pay off the debt.
The Wayne County prosecutor’s office opposed Kilpatrick’s release.
His federal trial on fraud, tax crimes and a racketeering conspiracy is scheduled to start in September 2012. In an 89-page indictment filed in December, the government described a pay-to-play scheme in which Kilpatrick and his father, Bernard, took kickbacks and bribes to steer city business to certain contractors.
Both men have pleaded not guilty. Bernard Kilpatrick is not in custody.
People charged with felonies typically aren’t granted parole but the U.S. attorney’s office did not object to Kilpatrick’s release.
The Democrat served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 1996 to 2001 and was minority floor leader from 1998 to 2000. He was elected mayor of his hometown in 2001 and served from 2002 through his September 2008 resignation.
Kilpatrick spent 99 days in the Wayne County Jail and in early 2009 joined his family in a Dallas suburb where he worked as a salesman for Covisint, a subsidiary of Detroit-based software company Compuware Corp.