Well, President Trump has gone and done it. By ‘it’ I mean commuting the prison sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to time served and releasing him. While I can’t say I’m entirely surprised by this development, I am deeply disappointed with the decision.
I do not dispute the President’s authority to make this decision. That power is enshrined in the Constitution and he is free to use it at his discretion. That being said, I have to question his judgement in granting a commutation to a man who literally tried to sell a seat in the United States Senate, among other things. Even in Illinois, which is inherently corrupt, Blagojevich’s actions stood out.
Remember, the Illinois House of Representatives voted almost unanimously to impeach Blagojevich. The Illinois Senate did vote unanimously to convict the then-governor of the charges against him and remove him from office. The Senate also passed (again, unanimously) a measure prohibiting Blagojevich from ever holding an elected office in the state again.
Blagojevich was eventually convicted on federal corruption charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He served eight, thanks to President Trump’s commutation. Even with credit for good behavior, he would have served at least another four years in prison. Instead, he’s free.
That, friends, is not a good thing.
I’m not worried about Blagojevich committing further crimes. He is still utterly reviled in this state and burned so many bridges in his own party that, as the old saying goes, I doubt he could be elected dog-catcher. (apologies for the comparison to dog-catchers who, I am sure, are upstanding people)
My problem with the commutation is that I don’t think Blagojevich has paid his debt to society.
I have long held the view that public servants who betray the public trust should be dealt with as severely as violent criminals, drug traffickers, and sexual offenders. Just because ‘white-collar’ criminals don’t physically injure or kill their victims, the effects of their crimes can be devasting to multitudes of people.
Will the community be harmed by Blagojevich getting out of prison early? Probably not. I have to remember that he is still a convicted felon with all the baggage that entails. He is also so infamous that I suspect he will never repair his reputation or his standing in the political world.
But as a citizen who, perhaps foolishly, still believes that public officials should serve the public good and not line their pockets in the process, I think Rod Blagojevich should have served his entire sentence.