Rod Blagojevich is crossing every item off his get-out-of-prison to-do list.
That’s especially true after President Donald Trump blurted out last week that he is mulling a commutation for the former Illinois governor six years into a 14-year prison sentence.
So on Tuesday, Blagojevich filed paperwork asking — again — for a presidential commutation. For roughly a year now, Blagojevich has had no formal request on file with the Office of the Pardon Attorney because he had not exhausted his appeals.
However, as former Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich has pointed out, Trump can do “anything he wants, whenever he wants” when it comes to clemency. And a White House official told the Sun-Times the work of the Pardon Attorney is “a procedural process.”
The cases Trump is interested in “will be routed through White House counsel,” the official said.
Leonard Goodman, Blagojevich’s attorney, said the document filed Tuesday afternoon totals 53 pages with exhibits. If granted, the commutation would not erase Blagojevich’s convictions, but if Trump shortened his sentence to time served, Blagojevich could walk free in a matter of days.
“Blagojevich has served almost 7 years of a 14-year sentence, which is twice as long as other state governors who, unlike Blagojevich, lined their own pockets,” Goodman wrote an email to the Sun-Times. “His wife and two daughters need him to come back home.”Blagojevich sought this relief once before, filing commutation paperwork in the waning days of the Obama administration. That petition was inherited by Trump when he took office in January 2017. However, a Justice Department spokeswoman said Blagojevich’s file was administratively closed in May 2017.Patti Blagojevich has said that’s because her husband had not finished his appeal in the courts. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not hear Blagojevich’s case, finally leaving him no other legal options.
Since then, Patti Blagojevich has undertaken a public campaign for clemency directed at Trump — mainly on Fox News — and it seems to be working. She has tried to tie her husband’s prosecution to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Former FBI Director James Comey.
“This same cast of characters that did this to my family are out there trying to do it to the president,” Patti Blagojevich told the Sun-Times in April.
Then, last week, the president told reporters that Blagojevich, 61, went to jail “for being stupid” and saying things “many other politicians say.”
Trump also said Blagojevich’s prison sentence was excessive, though he mistakenly said Blagojevich was sentenced to 18 years behind bars. He got 14 years.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that, “the president has not made a formal decision” on Blagojevich. She said Trump wouldn’t be paying attention to people who might criticize him for letting Blagojevich go free.
“The president does not base his formal decisions off of criticism of others, but on what he thinks is the right decision to make,” Sanders said.
Federal prosecutors have dismissed the idea that Blagojevich was “caught unawares by murky laws,” as he and his supporters suggest.
Though an appellate court tossed five of his convictions in 2015, federal prosecutors say he remains convicted “of the same three charged shakedowns” for which he was first sentenced in 2011.
Those include his attempt to sell then-President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, to shake down the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital for $25,000 in campaign contributions and to hold up a bill to benefit the racetrack industry for $100,000 in campaign contributions. A jury also convicted him of lying to the FBI.
“These are serious crimes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Riggs Bonamici said in 2016. “These affect our very way of government. These affect how we live every day. Corruption is serious.”
Goodman, Blagojevich’s attorney, is a member of the investor group that purchased the Sun-Times and Chicago Reader in 2017.