//Rod Blagojevich, freed by Trump pardon, leaves Colorado jail, returns to Illinois

Rod Blagojevich, freed by Trump pardon, leaves Colorado jail, returns to Illinois

CHICAGO — Rod Blagojevich walked out of jail Tuesday after President Donald Trump minimize brief the 14-year jail sentence handed to the previous Illinois governor for political corruption.

The Republican president stated the punishment imposed on the Chicago Democrat and one-time contestant on Trump’s actuality TV present “Superstar Apprentice” was extreme.

“So he’ll be able to go back home with his family,” Trump instructed reporters in Washington. “That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion and in the opinion of many others.”

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Blagojevich landed at Chicago’s O’Hare airport early Wednesday a free man, promising judicial and legal justice reform whereas sustaining his innocence.

“Ï didn’t do the things they said I did and they lied on me,” Blagojevich instructed WGN-TV as he walked by way of the airport shaking the fingers of vacationers who welcomed him dwelling.

He once more thanked Trump for commuting his sentence, saying ”I believe he noticed a mistaken and corrected it.”

As he exited the airport doorways he was rushed by media and supporters, signing a number of autographs earlier than getting right into a white SUV and dashing out of the airport towards his Ravenswood dwelling. There he was rushed by way of a crowd of journalists and supporters to his entrance door. He stated he was glad to be dwelling along with his spouse and kids earlier than disappearing into the home.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives home from prison after his sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump on Feb. 19, 2020 in Chicago. Blagojevich had been serving time in federal prison for attempting to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat when Obama was elected president. (Getty Images)

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives dwelling from jail after his sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump on Feb. 19, 2020 in Chicago. Blagojevich had been serving time in federal jail for trying to promote Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat when Obama was elected president. (Getty Photos)

The Chicago Tribune on Tuesday evening posted a photograph of thesilver-haired Blagojevich at Denver Worldwide Airport, the place he later boarded a airplane for Chicago.Blagojevich was famously fastidious about his darkish hair as governor, nevertheless it went all white as a result of hair dyes are banned in jail.

Promising he can have extra to say in a Wednesday information convention, Blagojevich instructed WGN-TV he appreciated the president’s motion.

“I’m profoundly grateful to President Trump and it’s a profound and everlasting gratitude,” Blagojevich stated. “He didn’t have to do this, he’s a Republican president and I was a Democratic governor. I’ll have a lot more to say tomorrow.”

Blagojevich wouldn’t say what plans he had for the longer term, nonetheless he did speak a bit about his time in jail.

“I’ve discovered quite a bit in regards to the legal justice system, how unfair it may be, how unjust it’s to individuals of coloration,” he stated. “I’ve drawn closer to God. There is divine intervention in all of this.”

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Blagojevich stated he heard about his commutation when different inmates instructed him they noticed it on the information,’’ he stated, including that he ”had no inkling it was coming.’’

The previous governor instructed ABC-TV Chicago that his future plans are to “flip evil into good.”

“I’ll struggle in opposition to the corrupt legal justice system that every one too typically persecutes and prosecutes individuals who did nothing mistaken, who over-sentences individuals, present no mercy, and who’re in positions who haven’t any accountability,” Blagojevich stated. “They can do whatever they want. They can put you into prison for things that aren’t crimes.”

Blagojevich, 63, hails from a state with an extended historical past of pay-to-play schemes. He was convicted in 2011 of crimes that included in search of to promote an appointment to Barack Obama’s previous Senate seat and making an attempt to shake down a kids’s hospital.

Trump had stated repeatedly lately that he was contemplating taking government motion in Blagojevich’s case, solely to again away from the thought.

Others in Illinois, together with the governor, stated setting Blagojevich free was a mistake.

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Trump “has abused his pardon power in inexplicable ways to reward his friends and condone corruption, and I deeply believe this pardon sends the wrong message at the wrong time,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker stated in a written assertion.

Many Republicans agreed.

“In a state the place corrupt, machine-style politics remains to be all too frequent, it is essential that these discovered responsible serve their jail sentence in its entirety,” stated the the chairman of the Illinois GOP, Tim Schneider.

Trump made clear that he noticed similarities between efforts to analyze his personal conduct and people who took down Blagojevich.

“It was a prosecution by the identical individuals — Comey, Fitzpatrick, the identical group,” Trump stated. He was referring to Patrick Fitzgerald, the previous U.S. legal professional who prosecuted Blagojevich and now represents former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired from the company in Might 2017.

Trump additionally granted clemency to financier Michael Milken, who served two years in jail within the early 1990s after pleading responsible to violating U.S. securities legal guidelines, and pardoned former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, who served simply over three years for tax fraud and mendacity to the White Home whereas being interviewed to be Homeland Safety secretary.

The Illinois Home in January 2009 voted 114-1 to question Blagojevich, and the state Senate voted unanimously to take away him, making him the primary Illinois governor in historical past to be eliminated by lawmakers. He entered jail in March 2012.

Blagojevich’s spouse, Patti, went on a media blitz in 2018 to encourage Trump to step in, praising the president and likening the investigation of her husband to particular prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling within the 2016 election — a probe Trump lengthy characterised as a “witch hunt.”

Blagojevich’s conviction was notable, even in a state the place 4 of the final 10 governors have gone to jail for corruption. Choose James Zagel — who sentenced Blagojevich to the longest jail time period but for an Illinois politician — stated when a governor “goes unhealthy, the material of Illinois is torn and disfigured.”

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After his Dec. 9, 2008, arrest whereas nonetheless governor, Blagojevich grew to become identified for his foul-mouthed rants on wiretaps. On essentially the most infamous recording, he gushed about profiting by naming somebody to the seat Obama vacated to change into president: “I’ve obtained this factor and it is f—— golden. And I am simply not giving it up for f—— nothing.”

Prosecutors have balked on the notion lengthy promoted by Blagojevich that he engaged in frequent political horse-trading and was a sufferer of an overzealous U.S. legal professional. After Blagojevich’s arrest, Fitzgerald stated the governor had gone on “a political corruption crime spree” that will make Abraham Lincoln flip over in his grave.

A joint assertion from Fitzgerald and the lead prosecutors at Blagojevich’s trial, none of whom work within the U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace in Chicago anymore, stopped in need of criticizing Trump’s determination. However they highlighted the convictions, together with for making an attempt to shake down the youngsters’s hospital, saying, “Mr. Blagojevich stays a felon.”

Mueller — a topic of Trump’s derision — was FBI director throughout the investigation into Blagojevich. Fitzgerald is now a non-public legal professional for Comey, whom Trump dismissed from the company in Might 2017.

Trump expressed some sympathy for Blagojevich when he appeared on “Superstar Apprentice” in 2010, earlier than his first corruption trial began. When Trump “fired” Blagojevich as a contestant, he praised him for the way he was preventing his legal case, telling him, “You have got a hell of a variety of guts.”

Blagojevich’s first trial ended with the jury unable to succeed in a verdict, apart from a single conviction, for mendacity to the FBI.

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At his second trial in 2011, Blagojevich testified, describing himself as a flawed dreamer grounded in his dad and mom’ working-class values. He sought to humanize himself to counteract the seemingly grasping governor heard on wiretap recordings performed in court docket. He stated the hours of FBI recordings have been the ramblings of a politician who appreciated to assume out loud.

He was convicted on 18 counts. The seventh U.S. Circuit Court docket of Appeals in Chicago in 2015 tossed out 5 of the convictions, together with ones wherein he provided to nominate somebody to a high-paying job within the Senate.

The appeals court docket ordered the trial choose to resentence Blagojevich however instructed it could be applicable at hand him the identical sentence, given the gravity of the crimes.

“I’ve made an entire bunch of errors however I did not break any legal guidelines,” Blagojevich stated in Denver earlier than boarding his Chicago-bound business flight Tuesday evening. “I crossed no strains. And the issues I talked about doing have been authorized and this was routine politics and those who did it are those who broke the legal guidelines and those who frankly ought to meet and face some accountability.”