Blagojevich Released After Trump Commutes Sentence

ILLINOIS — Disgraced ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was released from federal prison Tuesday evening, hours after President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday commuted his 14-year sentence to time served.

The news comes nearly two years after Blagojevich officially asked Trump to commute his sentence. At the time, Trump said he was “seriously thinking” about a commutation.

Trump confirmed the reports Tuesday afternoon, telling reporters, “Yes, we commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich.” The president noted that Blagojevich served nearly eight years adding, “He seems like a very nice person — don’t know him.”

Prior to the commutation, Blagojevich’s release was expected to happen in 2024, factoring in two years for good behavior. According to multiple media outlets, Blagojevich was freed Tuesday evening and was spotted at Denver Airport, where he talked to reporters about his excitement about going home, seeing his family — and maybe even having a banana split.

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Blagojevich was by turns defiant — speaking out about the persecution and “railroading that was done” to him by “corrupt prosecutors who have too much power” — and exuberant, and said he found out Trump commuted his sentence from other inmates who saw it on the news Tuesday morning.

“I’ll have more to say tomorrow, but this is a new day,” the ex-governor said, speaking on behalf of his entire family to express their “most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump,” adding, “He didn’t have to do this. He’s a Republican and I was a Democratic governor, and my fellow Democrats don’t treat him very good.”

Asked what he would do when he got home, Blagojevich said he didn’t let himself think about that in prison.

“When you’re in a place like I was for as long as I was, you discipline your mind,” he said. “I never really allowed myself to indulge in thoughts of what it might be like if I was able to get back home.” After he gets home and sees his family, Blagojevich said, “I might have a banana split, and I’d like to have three scoops of ice cream, vanilla and chocolate and strawberry, with chocolate syrup and cherry syrup and pineapple syrup, with a whole bunch of whipped cream,” he added — but said he’d withhold the peanuts so he could kiss his youngest daughter, who has a nut allergy.

After that? “I’m going to see justice, I’m going to fight for justice, and I’m going to do what is right for the country.”

The former governor was one of 11 people who received clemency from Trump on Tuesday.

In a statement, the White House said, “People from across the political spectrum and from varied backgrounds have expressed support for shortening Mr. Blagojevich’s sentence, including Senator Dick Durbin, Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., former Representative Bob Barr, Representatives Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Bishop Byron Brazier.” That statement noted that more than 100 of the ex-governor’s fellow inmates have written letters calling for a reduction of his sentence.

“During his confinement, Mr. Blagojevich has demonstrated exemplary character, devoting himself to improving the lives of his fellow prisoners,” the White House said. “He tutors and teaches GED classes, mentors prisoners regarding personal and professional development, and speaks to them about their civic duties.”

Blagojevich, 63, had been serving time at Federal Correctional Institution-Englewood south of Denver since 2012, amid several failed attempts to get a shorter sentence.

In 2018, Trump blasted the length of the sentence handed down twice to Blagojevich, once at his 2011 sentencing and again in 2016, after five of the 17 counts of corruption were tossed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“(Fourteen) years in jail for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know that many other politicians, say,” the president said.

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Whistleblower and retired Edward Hospital CEO Pamela Davis, who wore a wire to expose corruption in Blagojevich’s administration, called Trump’s decision to commute the ex-governor’s sentence “appalling and frightening.”

She told the Daily Herald that both Trump and Blagojevich “totally abused the power entrusted to them,” adding, “One of the reasons it was a long sentence is that (Blagojevich) never took individual responsibility for what he had done. He never apologized, he had zero remorse.”

Prior to Trump’s election, Blagojevich also petitioned former President Barack Obama — whose U.S. Senate seat he was caught on tape attempting to profit from — for a commutation but didn’t get it.

In 2019, Trump again said he was seriously considering a commutation for Blagojevich, saying the imprisoned former governor was “treated unbelievably unfairly” by “the Comey Gang and all these sleazebags.”

The president said he had sympathy for Blagojevich’s wife and frequent Fox News Channel guest Patti Blagojevich, whom he described as “fantastic” and “one hell of a woman.” Patti Blagojevich previously spoke out in support of Trump amid the Mueller investigation.

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