Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Monday said he’d support an effort to free former former Gov. Rod Blagojevich from prison.
“I think that the sentence imposed on Rod Blagojevich was definitely way too long. Fourteen years, it didn’t make sense,” Durbin said at an unrelated news conference in the Loop.
“And so I’m not commenting on whether he was culpable or guilty. That was decided by the courts, but I thought the sentence was outrageous, and if there’s a way to reduce the sentence for him and his family, I would support it.
Added Durbin, “I’ll let President Trump make that decision but I certainly think 14 years was entirely too long.”
It’s not the first time Durbin offered his support for a commutation of a former Illinois governor’s prison sentence. In 2008 he urged then President George W. Bush to commute the sentence of George Ryan, who was serving a six and half year sentence on corruption charges. Bush never acted on the request.
But Durbin did not join a group of high-profile Illinois Democrats who petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court last year to hear Blagojevich’s case. That, ultimately unsuccessful, motion was signed by a who’s who list of current and former Illinois Democratic congressional delegation members who emphasized that they take “no position on Mr. Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt on any of the counts of conviction.”
President Donald Trump said last week that he might commute the former governor’s prison sentence, possibly springing Blagojevich as many as six years early.
The president told reporters Blagojevich went to jail “for being stupid” and saying things “many other politicians say.” Trump also said the sentence handed down twice by U.S. District Judge James Zagel was excessive.
A commutation would reduce Blagojevich’s prison sentence, but it would not wipe out his convictions. If Trump were to reduce the former governor’s sentence to time served, it could still take a few days for Blagojevich to walk free.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced April 16 it would not hear an appeal from Blagojevich, finally ending a years-long battle by the former governor and his family in the courts. Since then, executive clemency has been Blagojevich’s only hope.
Blagojevich, 61, is not due out of prison until May 2024. 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 Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.
Blagojevich’s attorney, Leonard Goodman, is a member of the investor group that purchased the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Reader in 2017.