MAGA Comes Through For Death Row Records Co-Founder Harry-O, Commutes Sentence Of Ex-Detroit Hip-Hop Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick
On the eve of his exit from the White House, outgoing President Donald Trump pardoned 73 people. Among those granted commutations and clemency were Death Row Records co-founder Michael “Harry-O” Harris and former Detroit “Hip-Hop” Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Harris – a known former drug kingpin who also ran a slew of legitimate businesses (including a theater company credited with giving Denzel Washington his big break) – invested $1.5 million to help start Death Row Records with co-founder Suge Knight. He was imprisoned in 1988 for attempted murder and kidnapping and has spent 32 years behind bars.
Kilpatrick was once a rising political star known for his charisma and intellect. That changed when he was sentenced in 2013 to 28 years in prison after being convicted in a federal corruption case of a racketeering conspiracy that included using his position to bribe, extort and commit fraud to enrich himself and those in his circle.
Trump pardoned Harris after hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg secretly lobbied on his behalf, enlisting the help of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Daily Mail reported. Harris’s alleged victim recanted his story in 2011, but Harris wasn’t released because he still faced convictions for drug offenses.
However, Harris is said to have been a model prisoner, restarting the San Quentin News and giving back to youth from behind bars. Harris’ attorney, Bruce Zucker, expressed his appreciation for his attorney’s relief, adding the sentence was too harsh for the crime.
“It occurred during the 1980s, at a time when then Presidents Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush authorized legislation that imposed draconian penalties for drug offenses, which primarily and adversely affected young African American men living in the inner-city, such as Mr. Harris,” Zucker said. “This commutation is more than equitable, and it is long overdue. We are all grateful for the hard work on this case by prison reform professionals Alice Johnson, Weldon Angeleno, and artist Snoop Dogg, as well as private investigator and sentencing expert John Brown.”
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Kilpatrick was pardoned on Wednesday morning after he and advocates pleaded with Trump for a pardon for more than two years, Detroit News reported. In 2020, after serving seven years of his sentence, Kilpatrick also tried to get released based on “health challenges” but that did not pan out.
Kilpatrick’s commutation was strongly supported by prominent members of the Detroit community, according to a statement from the White House. “Mr. Kilpatrick has served approximately 7 years in prison for his role in a racketeering and bribery scheme while he held public office. During his incarceration, Mr. Kilpatrick has taught public speaking classes and has led Bible study groups with his fellow inmates.”
There have been mixed reactions to Kilpatrick’s release. Some celebrate it as a chance at redemption, while others believe he is not reformed and should still be behind bars.
“It’s a second chance certainly at redemption and to return to society and be a productive citizen,” former Michigan state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo said. “Nobody is saying Kwame didn’t do wrong. He did commit a crime but the crime did not fit the time.”
“Kwame Kilpatrick has earned every day he served in federal prison for the horrible crimes he committed against the people of Detroit,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement. “He is a notorious and unrepentant criminal. He remains convicted of 24 felonies. Kilpatrick has served only one quarter of the sentence that was very appropriately imposed.”
Harris’ family and friends are happy he is coming home.
“You don’t even know how it feels right now,’ Harris’ longtime friend Al Brown told DailyMail.com. “Mike was never a bad guy. He did a lot of good on the streets. He was successful as a businessman before he left prison … Now he wants to give back. For the last 20 or so years he’s been creating programs. He was able to get San Quentin News back up and running, with him as the editor-in-chief. He’s done a lot for the youth up in Richmond, California.”