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Timeline: Rod Blagojevich’s strange odyssey from the Illinois House to the Big House

Key events in Rod Blagojevich’s rise, fall and bids for freedom.

Then Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Then Gov. Rod Blagojevich reacts to questions from the media about the landfill controversey and his father-in-law Ald. Richard Mell in 2005. File Photo.
Keith Hale/Chicago Sun-Times

After years of suspense rivaled only by the reality television shows that figured into his life, disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich may soon be free from prison, potentially ending a political saga full of strange twists and turns.

Here’s how he got to this point.

November 1996 — Then a state representative, Rod Blagojevich is elected to the U.S. House with the support of his father-in-law Ald. Dick Mell and Mayor Richard M. Daley. Blagojevich represented the state’s 5th Congressional District, which includes the city’s Northwest Side.

November 2002 — In the governor’s race, Blagojevich trounces Republican Jim Ryan, 52 percent to 45 percent. In his victory speech Blagojevich told a racuous crowd of supporters “tonight ladies and gentlemen, Illinois has voted for change.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan, right, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich, left, debate in 2002. File Photo.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan, right, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich, left, debate in 2002. File Photo.
Stephen J. Carrera/AP

November 2006 — Blagojevich is re-elected, beating Judy Baar Topinka 49 percent to 40 percent. Green Party candidate Rich Whitney drew about 11 percent of the vote. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” Blagojevich told supporters. He was the first Democrat to win re-election since 1964, when Otto Kerner sailed to a second term. Kerner later went to prison on corruption charges. Blagojevich’s own administration was being probed by the feds when we won a second term.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, and his GOP opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, prepare for a debate taping in 2006. Fiile Photo.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, and his GOP opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, prepare for a debate taping in 2006. Fiile Photo.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Dec. 9, 2008 — Federal agents arrest Blagojevich at 6 a.m. at his Ravenswood Manor home on Chicago’s Northwest Side. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald releases the criminal complaint against Blagojevich, which says the governor was secretly recorded saying that the opportunity to appoint someone to fill the U.S.Senate seat left vacant by the election of President Barack Obama was “f--—— golden.” Fitzgerald describes the governor’s conduct as a political corruption “crime spree” that would have “Lincoln rolling over in his grave.”

Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Then Gov. Rod Blagojevich waves through car exhaust as he departs his home in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. File Photo.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Dec. 19, 2008 — Blagojevich breaks a 10-day silence and declares he is innocent of any wrongdoing and vows, “I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath.”

Dec. 30, 2008 — Blagojevich riles the political world by naming former Illinois state comptroller and attorney general Roland Burris to fill Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.

Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris takes questions as Gov. Rod Blagojevich listens.
Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris takes questions after Gov. Rod Blagojevich announces Burris as his choice to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat in 2008. File Photo.
Paul Beaty/AP

Jan. 9, 2009 — The Illinois House of Representatives votes 114-1 to impeach Blagojevich, with then-state Rep. Deb Mell — Blagojevich’s sister-in-law — casting the lone dissenting vote.

Jan. 30, 2009 — Blagojevich becomes the first Illinois governor ever to be booted out of office, after the Illinois Senate votes 59-0 to oust him following an impeachment trial.

April 2, 2009 — Blagojevich is indicted on corruption charges with five co-defendants: his brother, Robert Blagojevich, who worked on his campaign; former chief of staff Alonzo “Lon” Monk; his most recent chief of staff, John Harris; chief campaign fund-raiser Christopher G. Kelly; and Springfield businessman and longtime political powerbroker William F. Cellini.

Rod Blagojevich
Dec. 9, 2008: Department of Justice booking photo provided via WGN-TV showing Rod Blagojevich following his arrest in Chicago.
AP Photo/Department of Justice via WGN-TV

June 2009 — The ex-governor’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, travels to Costa Rica and completes challenges including eating a tarantula as a contestant on the reality TV show “I’m a Celebrity — Get Me Out of Here!”

July 8, 2009 — Harris pleads guilty to wire fraud, the first co-defendant to accept a plea deal and agree to testify against Blagojevich.

The cast of NBC’s “I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!”
The cast of NBC’s “I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!” Pictured: (l-r) Spencer Pratt, Heidi Montag, Patti Blagojevich, John Salley, Janice Dickenson --
NBC Photo by Tyler Golden

Sept. 12, 2009 — Kelly commits suicide days after pleading guilty to tax and mail fraud charges. Kelly had refused to cooperate with prosecutors. Cellini gets a separate trial.

Oct. 20, 2009 — Monk pleads guilty to wire fraud.

March 14, 2010 — Blagojevich appears with performers Cyndi Lauper, Bret Michaels and others on TV’s “Celebrity Apprentice” with Donald Trump and is eventually “fired” for a lack of leadership and technology skills.

The cast of “Celebrity Apprentice”
The cast of “Celebrity Apprentice” -- Pictured: (l-r) Carol Leifer, Sinbad, Maria Kanellis, Rod Blagojevich, Sharon Osborne, Michael Johnson, Donald Trump, Curtis Stone, Cyndi Lauper, Bill Goldberg, Daryl Strawberry, Brett Michaels, Selita Ebanks, Summer Sanders, Holly Robinson Peete
NBC Photo by Mitch Haaseth

June 2010 — Blagojevich and his brother go on trial. The ex-governor faces 24 charges, ranging from racketeering to making false statements.

Aug. 17, 2010 — In an embarrassment to prosecutors, the first Blagojevich jury deadlocks on 23 of the 24 counts, convicting the ex-governor only of lying to the FBI. Prosecutors say they’ll retry Blagojevich.

April 2011 — Blagojevich’s retrial begins. Prosecutors pare down their case significantly, dropping racketeering charges.

May 2011 — Blagojevich testifies in his own defense, giving long-winded diatribes and apologizing for his language on tape: “I’m an effin’ jerk.” Blagojevich — testifying for seven days — fumbles at prosecutor Reid Schar’s opening question: “You are a convicted liar, right?”

June 2011 — The jury convicts Blagojevich of 17 of 20 counts, including the charge that he conspired to sell Obama’s Senate seat and another involving shaking down potential campaign contributors in exchange for official actions.

Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama in 2005.
Then Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks as Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., listens during a news conference in St. Louis in 2005. File Photo.
James A. Finley/AP

Dec. 7, 2011 — Blagojevich is sentenced to 14 years in prison.

July 2015 — A panel of three judges throws out five of Blagojevich’s 18 criminal convictions.

August 2015 — Blagojevich petitions the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing. His request was denied.

April 2017 — A three-member appeals court upholds the ex-governor’s 14-year prison sentence.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, speaks to reporters as his wife Patti, center, listens at the federal building in Chicago in 2011, after being sentenced to 14 years in prison. File Photo.
M. Spencer Green/AP

April 2018 — The U.S. Supreme Court announces it will not hear Blagojevich’s appeal. Hours later Patti Blagojevich goes on FOX’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” seeking a presidential pardon for her husband.

May 2018 — President Donald Trump says he might commute the former governor’s sentence. Patti Blagojevich, in a statement, says Trump has “given us something that has been hard to come by recently … hope.”

June 2018 — Blagojevich formally requests a presidential commutation.

Patti Blagojevich (right) appears on Fox News.
Patti Blagojevich (right) appears on Fox News last year on “The Story .with Martha MacCallum.” File.
Fox News Channel screenshot

July 2018 — Patti returns to FOX and blames the Obama-era Justice Department, saying the department and the Obama administration made sure the former governor didn’t get a fair trial and that they carried out a “witch hunt” on her husband.

Aug. 7, 2019 — President Trump says he’s “very strongly” considering clemency for Blagojevich, who has been “treated unbelievably unfairly.”