DETROIT (WWJ) – An online petition seeking presidential intervention for the imprisoned former Detroit mayor is gaining momentum.

Over 15,000 people have signed the Change.org petition asking for President Obama to grant clemency to Kwame Kilpatrick – sentenced in 2013 to 28 years in connection with a racketeering conspiracy.

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The petition request begins in earnest; “As a native Detroiter, I am well aware of the things that Mr. Kwame Kilpatrick has done wrong. I believe he should pay for his wrong doings but 28 years in prison is just too excessive. Prior to you Mr. Obama, I had not believed a black man could be President until I saw how Kwame galvanized the City of Detroit and without his mistakes the sky could have been the limit for him …”

Once a popular young politician, disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was ordered to spend 28 years behind bars on his convictions for racketeering, bribery, extortion and tax crimes.

“I think everyone here understands Mr. Kilpatrick was convicted of running a criminal enterprise,” Judge Nancy Edmunds said during his sentencing, adding the enterprise started while he was still in the state House of Representatives and continued through all six years he was in the mayor’s office. Edmunds said the scheme to steer contracts to pal Bobby Ferguson made projects more costly for a city that couldn’t afford it and drove contractors out of business.

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While Kilpatrick spoke eloquently in his own defense immediately before the sentence was handed down, giving a lengthy talk full of apologies and self-reflection in a subdued voice that riveted the packed courtroom and overflow room.

“I just humbly and respectfully ask for a fair sentence … I respect the jury’s verdict. I think your honor knows I have disagreed in terms of the specific things I was found guilty on, but I respect the verdict and I also respect the American justice system,” he said.

That attitude changed dramatically this summer – while he played contrite in court, a seemingly unrepentant Kilpatrick took to Facebook in July to rant against the conspiracy he blames for his incarceration and lash out at the “wicked and evil” justice system.

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President Obama could intervene on Kilpatrick behalf – if the U.S. Justice Department determines that the petition meets the guidelines for the president to grant clemency.