It works better for effect, if you say those words aloud; “Twenty-Eight Years!” Go ahead, say them! 

Where were you 28-years ago? Some of you were not even born. Where will you be 28-Years from now? I know my youngest son; Jonas (now 16-years old), will be 44-years old. Wow! The fact is, most of us have lived several lives, had several jobs, and been through several twist and turns in our lives over the past 28-years. 

In October of 2013, a federal judge in Detroit sentenced me to 28-years in federal prison. It was a very simple exercise. The Prosecuting Attorney stood up and made a recommendation to the court that I receive a 28-year prison sentence. The judge responded with these words; “28-Years sounds right to me!” Then she pulled out a prepared speech (with 28-years already written within the text) and described what she believed made 28-years “sound right.” It was fascinating. 

The overwhelming breadth of the judge’s speech was about things that had been plastered in the new media over the previous 10-years; extra-marital affairs, lying about those affairs, and even my “failing to live up to my potential.” Although I whole-heartedly agreed with the judge about these personal failures, I was trying to figure out what any of it had to do with 28-years “sounding right.” There was little mention of the present case, if at all, in her prepared remarks. Was I being sentenced to 28-years for affairs, for lying about affairs, for not living up to my potential…for being a “bad guy”? Is this what makes 28-years “sound right?” 

I have had two cellies with Life Sentences for selling less than 80 grams of crack. And another cellie who received a 57-year sentence for drugs and gun possession, when he was 19-years old (now 32-years old). His sentencing judge did not accept his 15-year expected “open-plea”, called him “arrogant” and a “punk”, then said he was going to “teach him a lesson” before sentencing him to 57-years. Whatever lesson the judge wanted him to learn, I don’t believe he learned it. He saw his mother murdered in front of him at 9-years old, grew up in foster-care, has been stabbed and beaten severely a few times while behind bars, and he has learned lessons from those experiences for sure. He also lives completely without support and family contact. But maybe all of this was the “lesson” the judge intended for him to receive. 

In all these cases, these judges said something very similar to what the judge said in my case; LIFE, 57-Years, 28-Years all “sound right.” All these sentences were given for non-violent crimes. Nobody was Injured, Raped, or Killed…but the time “sounds right.” 

One of my cellies who received a LIFE Sentence was blessed to receive Clemency from President Obama. He is already home, and doing well, after spending more than 24-years in prison. He had the support of his sentencing judge (who’d retired), for his clemency application. His judge was aggressively harsh at his sentencing, but now thinking much differently as he approaches the end of his own life. Hmmm, so what may “sound right” in one season of your life, may not “sound right” in another. Praise God! 

My case was sold to the public by the feds and media, over a more than 10-year period, as Kwame Kilpatrick being a Mob-like, dark underworld figure, who was having his way in the city of Detroit. He was stealing money, partying, and even murdering. He was almost never working…except he ran everything, oversaw every contract, made every decision, controlled every person, and was involved in every meeting. He did all of that between parties. It was the most ridiculous narrative and coverage of any local politician I’ve seen. And I lived through Coleman Young in Detroit. 

The narrative was so strong that more than 10-years after leaving office, I’m still on TV Shows. Crazy as hell! The coverage was tenacious, aggressive, intentional, and constant. It was also a very false, misguided, and evil narrative. But people believed it and watched it like a popular reality show for years. NONE OF THESE ISSUES ARE APART OF MY CHARGES OR CONVICTIONS…but they do provoke many to believe 28-Years “sounds right.” 

Also, the federal investigation that ended with this 28-year prison sentence was formally opened in February of 2002 (one-month after I took office) and persisted to the eve of trial in 2012. And the hoofbeats of the lynch mob persist today. 

I live amongst men who have received a wide range of prison sentences. Most of the men here testified against others and received substantially reduced sentences for their assistance to the government. As a matter of fact, most were far more criminally culpable than the individuals they rushed to testify against, just like Derrick Miller and Emma Bell in my case. But remember, this system has nothing to do with justice…it just has to “sound right.” 

What do you have to do for a 28-year sentence to “sound right?” Murder, Rape, Molest or Rape Children, sell lots of Dope, Steal Millions or Billions of Dollars, Rob Banks, what? 

Here’s the thing, there are hundreds here who have raped children, robbed banks, sold lots of drugs, and even stolen millions of dollars…AND NONE OF THEM HAVE A PRISON SENTENCE AS LONG AS 28-YEARS! NONE OF THEM! I guess it just didn’t “sound right”. 

There is not a single person on my entire floor that was sentenced to more prison time than me. There are MANY child rapists, bank robbers, drug dealers, and even “terrorists” on my floor. There are a couple of guys who had LIFE SENTENCES but were given 25-Years on Appeal. One for drugs and 2nd Degree Murder. He, along with most in this system, marvel at my prison sentence. 

I have never murdered, raped, committed any crimes against children, sold any drugs, stolen ANY money (nor charged or convicted of stealing any money, embezzlement, misuse of public funds, or the like…Including within this present case), robbed a bank, kidnapped, gone on a crime spree of any sort, or anything remotely similar. So, what sounded so right about 28-Years?! 

Here’s a thought…and I know it’s a little bias…and I know you may truly believe in the honesty and integrity of our criminal justice system…and I know you don’t believe your country would do this unfair, unjust thing…BUT MAYBE, JUST MAYBE…THE 28-YEAR SENTENCE IS NOT RIGHT AT ALL! MAYBE IT DOESN’T EVEN SOUND RIGHT! MAYBE ITS WICKEDLY WRONG! Even if you despise Kwame Kilpatrick, IT DOESN’T “SOUND RIGHT” TO YOU EITHER! I’m talking to the rational thinking people, not the scary ones. 

Judge Edmunds has a motion before her to correct, reduce, or vacate my prison sentence. She is going to decide any day. I hope and pray, like the judges in many other high-profile cases around the country; Silver, Skelos, Boyland, Jefferson, McDonnell, Menendez, Fattah, etc., will be in a different season of her own life, and ready to decide not based on the “sound” or noise, but what’s just, fair, and truly righteous. I pray that God will overwhelm her heart with courage and love. 

Living up to the true meaning of the creed Declared in the birth of this country; “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident, that ALL MEN are created equal” is the only thing that truly “sounds right.” When hate and bias overwhelms fairness and justice, then we don’t have Democracy. We are simply being led by what “sounds right”…WE ARE BEING LED BY THE NOISE! 

Kwame Kilpatrick