Illinois News

Reaction mixed for Blagojevich's commuted sentence

APTOPIX Trump-Blagojevich
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives to Denver International Airport on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 in Denver. Blagojevich walked out of prison after President Donald Trump cut short the 14-year prison sentence handed to the former Illinois governor for political corruption. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune via AP)
Erin HooleyMBO
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 19, 2020 12:10 am Updated: Feb. 19, 2020 12:23 am

QUINCY — Reaction was mixed after President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday.

State Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, who served in the Illinois House during Blagojevich's impeachment in 2009, said she was surprised and believed that Blagojevich's time in office continues to affect the state.

"I agree with the president on a majority of his policies and platforms, but this is one where I disagree," Tracy said. "If you look at where Illinois faced its hardest fiscal times, it was started with the Blagojevich administration and went downward. It's going to take a long time to rebuild that."

Blagojevich was serving a 14-year prison sentence and not scheduled for release until 2024. He was convicted of charges in connection with attempting to sell an appointment to Barack Obama's former Senate seat and demanding a $50,000 donation from the leader of a children's hospital in return for a state grant.

In a joint statement, the Illinois Republican congressional delegation, which includes U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, said it believed that Blagojevich's sentence was appropriate, and that it was disappointed in Trump's move.

"Blagojevich is the face of public corruption in Illinois, and not once has he shown any remorse for his clear and documented record of egregious crimes that undermined the trust placed in him by voters," the statement read. "As our state continues to grapple with political corruption, we shouldn't let those who breached the public trust off the hook. History will not judge Rod Blagojevich well."

Two former Quincy mayors, though, agreed that Blagojevich should be released from prison.

Mayor Chuck Scholz, a Democrat, believed that eight years was long enough for Blagojevich.

"I think what he did was very wrong and had a lot of negative repercussions for political science," Scholz said. "It helped undermine people's faith and confidence in our government, and he deserved it."

He said he didn't have much interaction with Blagojevich when he was mayor, as Scholz supported the former superintendent of Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas in the Democratic primary.

Scholz also believed that former Gov. George Ryan's 61/2 year prison sentence was too long after he was convicted on several corruption charges.

C. David Nuessen, a Republican, said he believed President Trump made the right decision, even though he is not a fan of Blagojevich.

"Quite frankly, I'm surprised he was ever convicted," Nuessen said. "I think at least eight years he has served enough time for what he was accused of doing."

He added that he never understood the charges related to the Senate seat appointment.

"They look for who is going to best support them," he said. "I always thought it was kind of peculiar that someone would expect that someone in that position would give it to somebody that they disagreed with or who wouldn't help them at some point in time. That's the nature of politics."

Things to Do