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Kapos: Is there still one more chance for Blagojevich?

Rod Blagojevich and his supporters hope President Barack Obama might consider clemency for the imprisoned former governor.

“Obama certainly has the power to commute (reduce) Blagojevich’s sentence and send him home to his family. The president has two daughters just like Blagojevich and he may have some compassion for him,” says Leonard Goodman, the defense attorney handling the former governor’s appeal of his 2011 corruption conviction.

An online petition asks Obama to grant clemency to the imprisoned former governor. It needs 100,000 signatures by Sept. 9 in order to get the White House’s attention. It has 969 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. The petition, whose creator is identified only as “A.G.,” was put on the White House’s “We the People” website.

“Rod has admitted his wrongdoings and is now a changed person,” the petition states. “Commuting the prison sentence to time served would allow Rod to again be a productive citizen in society again, and be offered the opportunity to help raise his children.”

Five of 18 convictions were shaved off Blagojevich’s case, prompting a re-sentencing hearing last week. Family and fellow inmates say he’s reformed since his conviction for trying to trade or sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama when he was elected president. But U.S. District Judge James Zagel refused to cut the sentence, saying the issue was about “public trust.” Blagojevich has eight more years to serve.

Leonard Goodman, attorney for Gov. Rod Blagojevich. | AP Photo
Leonard Goodman, attorney for Gov. Rod Blagojevich. | AP Photo

Now Goodman hopes the president might be sympathetic to his client.

“Obama also understands the pressure on people in an executive position to raise money for their campaign, which is what Blagojevich’s case is about,” Goodman says. “I think there’s a chance that the president would offer clemency.”

Legal experts — even those sympathetic to Blagojevich — say it’s unlikely the president will throw him a bone.

“I think he deserved some kind of pardon or diminished sentence, but I don’t think there’s any likelihood that will happen. There are a lot of people out there with much more compelling problems,” says Ed Genson, Chicago’s dean of criminal defense attorneys.

“He solicited money, didn’t get any money and didn’t do anything untoward for the money he didn’t get,” Genson says of Blagojevich. “That would seem to allow for a reduction of the sentence. But the judge didn’t think so. He’s a good judge and the appellate court isn’t going to reverse him.”

Margaret Love, a D.C. attorney who specializes in executive clemency issues, says Blagojevich shouldn’t hold his breath on getting out early.

“The focus of President Obama’s clemency attention has been on drug offenders and cases of (pardoning) people who have been long out of prison and who are dealing with the adverse effects of having a conviction,” she says, adding it would be unlikely for Obama “to do anything so unpredictable” as to pardon Blagojevich.

Presidents can offer clemency or a pardon as they see fit, though generally they take cues from the Justice Department, which led the effort to prosecute Blagojevich.

“Controversial clemency grants are always risky for a president, even at the end of a term,” says Love.

Cindy Crawford taking Chicago stage

Supermodel Cindy Crawford is scheduled to attend this year’s Fifth Star Awards event honoring cultural icons in Chicago. | Georges Biard
Supermodel Cindy Crawford is scheduled to attend this year’s Fifth Star Awards event honoring cultural icons in Chicago. | Georges Biard

Supermodel Cindy Crawford is scheduled to attend this year’s Fifth Star Awards event honoring cultural icons in Chicago. She’ll present an award to Victor Skrebneski, who she has credited with helping launch her career. Crawford grew up in DeKalb.

The other four stars making up the Fifth Star Awards are Blues legend Buddy Guy, Black Ensemble Theater founder Jackie Taylor, National Museum of Mexican Art founder Carlos Tortolero and The Second City improv company.

Skrebneski studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology before opening his Chicago studio in the 1950s.

He gained fame for his fashion photography and for ad campaigns for Estee Lauder cosmetics.

After being photographed by Skrebneski in Chicago, Crawford moved to New York and appeared on the cover of numerous fashion and pop-culture magazines, including Vogue. She hosted MTV’s “House of Style” and signed endorsements over the years with Pepsi and Revlon. Crawford recently wrote “Becoming,” a book about her life and career.

The Sept. 14 event at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park is free to the public and features live performances and video tributes.

Read more by Shia Kapos at shiakapos.com.