Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick rejoiced Friday, his final day of probation and federal supervision under the criminal justice system.
'I'm finally free," Kilpatrick said in a telephone interview with Deadline Detroit. President Donald Trump commuted his 28-year prison sentence for public corruption to time served in January 2021, but he was put on probation after his release.
Kilpatrick, who served nearly eight years, has been living in Georgia since then, but has frequently visited Detroit.
With his new freedom, Kilpatrick says he no longer has to report to a probation officer and petition or notify the court to travel anywhere outside his designated area in Georgia. He said he'll also be able to vote again.
In 2021, Kilpatrick married LaTicia McGee. They have two children, a son, Kyng, who is 20 months old, and a daughter Kynsli, 4 months old. He has three grown sons from a previous marriage.
In 2021, he and his wife started a virtual ministry, Movemental Ministries. Last November, he was named executive director of Taking Action for Good (TAG), a justice reform nonprofit based in the Memphis, Tenn. area. He still lives in Georgia and is doing both jobs, and goes to Memphis when necessary for his job at TAG.
He said he may do some work overseas, preaching and consulting, and apply to visit prisons in the U.S., including Michigan, to spread the gospel and help inmates move forward in their lives and do good.
"I think the biggest thing is this freedom to have full citzenship without that constricted supervision," he said. "It's a great thing to be a citizen of the United States of America unlesss you've been duly prosecuted under the Constitution...It truly is a form of slavery in this country and continues long after."
"I've been under the auspices and supervision of the criminal justice system since 2008," he said, adding, "I'm just starting to understand (the freedom) today, starting to decompress."
"I know there's tens of thousands of men and women that have gone through this and I'm getting messages from them now on Instragram, saying "you ain't gonna believe the feeling.' And they are right. You're not looking over your shoulder."
One thing that hasn't completely vanished is his restitution. Federal authorities told him in 2017 he owed $1.7 million in criminal restitution. Kilpatrick says he's challenged those figures and now has it down to $164,584.42. He says he plans to challenge that figure as well, but insists ultimately he'll pay whatever he legitimately owes.
"I'm going to do whatever the integral thing is. We're going to set it up and I'm going to pay it. I want to know what" the restitution is based on.
He said some of the restitution, which also covered him, was previously covered by about $3 million in equipment, property and assets the government recovered from his co-defendant in the case, contractor Bobby Ferguson.
The U.S. Attorney's Office did not return phone calls for comment on Kilpatrick's status or restitution.
Kilpatrick insists he no longer owes restitution to the city of Detroit for his plea agreement in 2008 that was part of a text messaging scandal. The Wayne County Circuit record says he still owes $854,062.60 as of Friday.
"I don't owe any money to the state," he insisted, saying the restitution was discharged when he was paroled from the state.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy responded in a statement to Deadline Detroit:
“Mr. Kilpatrick currently owes a very substantial amount of restitution to the City of Detroit that he was ordered by the court to pay in his state case. According to court records he has not paid anything since February 2013. It has recently come to our attention that Mr. Kilpatrick has a new job. Now that he has the means to pay, we will be taking action so that he will resume the payment of this outstanding debt to the citizens of Detroit.”
Of his job with TAG, he says "it's going good and it's moving forward and I believe we're going to do some amazing things this year. He said they're launching a mentoring program for kids in need of guidance. The first city will be Memphis.
He said he's also looking for buildings for his ministry in both Georgia and Detroit.
"At some point, I'm coming back to Detroit. Now is not the time. I'm just trying to learn how to do this job (with TAG), and learning how to do it well, and giving us time to be a family and spend quality time with our children."
He said Detroiters deserve to see, as he puts it, "the rest of the sermon" on his life.
"They've seen the rise and fall and they need to see the rest of the sermon. I believe that can help someone else, so I think it's bigger than me."
He says emphatically that he doesn't want to return to politics.
"But I do believe that I would like to help connect and lift up and uplift the city of Detroit in any way I can."
He likens his life's trajectory to the Detroit Lions, which suffered through hard times and is now on the upswing. He says he watches all the games.
"I got ridiculed so bad in prison and everywhere about the Lioins. So, this is good for me. People are calling me from all over the country. We were 0-16 (in 2008) and I had on a Lions shirt."
"As a person who has been down on the ground, kicked while he was down there, I have a kinship to those kind of places. So, I'm getting up with them. We're getting up all together."