Overzealous, out of control, and power-hungry prosecutors wanted to send a message with the Rod Blagojevich case: if you dare to have the audacity to exercise your Constitutional rights and challenge their false claims at trial, they will use the entire weight of the United States of America to destroy your reputation in the court of public opinion, and see to it that the court imposes the most devastating of fines, penalties, and prison sentences. They will do everything in their power to destroy you personally, professionally, and financially, and worse than anything else, they insure that in the end that your family and children are torn to shreds. In the former Illinois governor’s case — an unprecedented 14 years.
Let’s be clear: Blagojevich never took a dime for his personal benefit, nor did he ever accept a bribe of any kind. He never flew on fancy jets or accepted lavish gifts in exchange for his political influence as governor — and when he went to a Cubs game, he paid for his own tickets — yet he sits in a federal prison with a 14-year sentence.
And the original charge, the “selling of the Senate seat” — that sensational charge is what people remember, but it was all a lie.
In July 2015, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed those charges, ruling that the so-called "sale of the Senate seat" was not a crime after all — it was nothing more than routine "political logrolling," something done in the halls of Congress and state houses around the country, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
But would the prosecutors adjust his sentence following the reversal of the original charges? Absolutely not.
The following short list serves to further illustrate how disproportionate Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence is:
John Rowland, governor of Connecticut from 1995 to 2004, pled guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit honest-services, mail, and tax fraud. He admitted that contractors doing business with the state had performed work on his vacation home for free and paid for vacations; in total he acknowledged accepting $107,000 in gratuities. Time spent in prison: 10 months.
George Ryan, Sr. was governor of Illinois for one term from 1999 to 2003. His 22-count indictment for racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering, and tax fraud stemmed from a number of schemes undertaken in his previous elected position as Illinois Secretary of State to steer millions of dollars of contracts to friends, taking cash, loans, and gifts including vacations in return, and to allow state licenses to be issued for bribes. As governor he tried to obstruct an investigation into that scheme and lied to the FBI about his other activities. His five daughters, sister, and housekeeper all received money from his campaign fund. He was found guilty on all counts. Time spent in prison: 6.5 years.
Bob McDonnell was governor of Virginia from 2010 to 2014. He and his wife were convicted of honest services fraud and other offenses in relation to their acceptance of over $175,000 in loans, gifts, and other benefits while Governor McDonnell was in office from a Virginia businessman who sought participation from the state’s public universities in studies that would help advance his business. McDonnell received a $6,500 Rolex watch and was loaned a Ferrari; his wife received a $20,000 designer shopping spree, a $50,000 loan, and a “gift” of $15,000 for their daughter’s wedding reception. His convictions were vacated on appeal by the Supreme Court on the grounds that McDonnell merely provided access to officials in exchange for the favors but did not carry out any official act as required to establish honest services fraud. Time spent in prison: Zero days.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., accepted donations and gifts from his wealthy friend Salomon Melgen in exchange for political influence. Melgen provided Menendez with trips on private jets, hotel rooms, and contributed nearly $75,000 to his political campaign. In the end, his trial concluded with a hung jury, and the Justice Department then filed to dismiss all remaining charges. And last year, the Senate Ethics Committee “severely admonished” the senator for accepting gifts over a six-year period. Time spent in prison? Zero days.
But there’s another tragic piece of the story — and that’s the lack of support from some people in Rod’s own party in Illinois. But why? Maybe this will answer some of those questions.
Last August, when President Trump was considering commuting Rod’s prison sentence, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a fellow Democrat, released a statement through his spokesperson saying that Rod Blagojevich is “in prison, where he belongs.” And that message got back to Trump.
But in 2008 when Rod was governor, Pritzker was singing a different tune — and in a phone call recorded by FBI wiretaps, he was caught on tape asking Blagojevich to appoint him Illinois Treasurer.
“Oh, interesting,” then Gov. Blagojevich said. “Let’s think about that. You interested in that?”
“Yeah,” Pritzker replied to Blagojevich. “That’s the one I would want.”
“My interest in holding public office is, you know, always large,” Pritzker said.
In 2018, Pritzker was elected the 43rd governor of Illinois.
In 2013, President Obama appointed JB’s sister, Penny Pritzker, the 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce — a position she held from 2013-17.
The lack of support from Pritzker as it relates to the former governor’s potential presidential pardon is very telling — and his opposition is just as political as Rod’s prosecution and imprisonment. The days of selective and political prosecution should be done away with — and those that do not support the president in releasing Blagojevich from prison are no different than those corrupt prosecutors that sent him there.
I’ve said this before publicly and it’s worth saying again: Rod Blagojevich was given a longer prison sentence than a convicted terrorist who was plotting a mass murder — and why anyone would oppose his release from prison defies logic. He poses no threat to society, and his sentence can only be described as “outrageous, draconian” and “inhumane.”
The day that Rod Blagojevich reported to prison in 2012, Donald Trump tweeted, “It’s outrageous that Blagojevich goes to jail for 14 years when killers and sex offenders are out walking the streets. Is this justice…I don’t think so.”
The president was right, and it’s time to right this horrible wrong.
As New York City’s 40th Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik was in command of the NYPD on September 11, 2001, and responsible for the city’s response, rescue, recovery, and the investigative efforts of the most substantial terror attack in world history. His 35-year career has been recognized in more than 100 awards for meritorious and heroic service, including a presidential commendation for heroism by President Ronald Reagan, two Distinguished Service Awards from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and an appointment as Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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