Herald-Whig View

Blagojevich does not deserve a pardon

Posted: Jun. 14, 2018 9:55 am

ONE of Illinois' most lasting, bipartisan political legacies in recent years is the criminal shadow that has hung over recent governors.

Democrat Otto Kerner Jr. left his second term early in 1968 to accept a seat as a federal judge. He was convicted in 1973 on 17 counts, included mail fraud, perjury and conspiracy. An appeals court overturned all but four counts of mail fraud, and he was sentenced to three years in a federal prison in Chicago. After he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was released early.

Democrat Dan Walker pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges -- among others -- in 1987, all related to activity after he left office 10 years previously.

After Republican George Ryan left office, he was convicted of racketeering and other charges stemming from the time he was secretary of state and later governor.

And most recently, Rod Blagojevich was the first governor in the state's history to be impeached and removed from office. He was convicted in 2011 of allegations of corruption that included him trying to sell then-President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

He began serving a 14-year sentence at a federal prison in Colorado in 2012.

And that's where he should stay.

This becomes an issue because President Donald Trump late last month floated the idea of pardoning Blagojevich.

Doing so would be a mistake.

Over the past year-and-a-half, Trump has made both good and bad decisions. Loosening financial regulations on small banks was much-needed relief for local financial institutions. Alienating allies and longtime trade partners at the G7 Summit was a definite risk. The jury still is out on Trump's trip to Singapore to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but we are hopeful that it will be the start of lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.

Pardoning Blagojevich would fall entirely under the column of Bad Decision.

Blagojevich's case was decided after a second trial when the first jury was hung on all but one charge. Later, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned all but five charges and remanded the case back to the circuit court for resentencing. There, the same judge reimposed the same sentence --14 years -- noting the severity of the corruption charges.

Since then, further appeals to the Seventh Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court all have been denied, with the most recent Supreme Court denial coming in April of this year.

Now, all of that is to say that the case has been heard and considered by qualified jurists, who all agree that the former governor belongs in prison.

We concur.

So does U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, who sent a letter this week to the president, signed by every House Republican in Illinois, urging that Trump not follow through with his consideration. We applaud LaHood for his leadership on the issue.

Rod Blagojevich tried to take advantage of the public trust to benefit himself. For that, he and anyone else who does the same deserve to be behind bars.

We hope President Trump remembers Blagojevich's crimes, and we hope that Trump quickly dismisses any thought of a pardon in this case.

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