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Blagojevich benefits from a process he spurned as governor

Friday, Feb 21, 2020

* Kim Bellware at the Washington Post

As a newly minted member of the Illinois General Assembly in 2007, Rep. La Shawn Ford of Chicago remembers his first bill: a proposal to eliminate from state job applications the question asking if someone had ever been convicted of a nonviolent crime. Then-Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich (D) vetoed it.

The veto was one of the many choices Blagojevich’s critics now cite as part of his dismal track record on criminal-justice reform while governor, an office from which he was later impeached and removed and ultimately convicted of leveraging for financial gain in a 2009 political corruption trial that led to his 14-year prison sentence. Blagojevich’s history on criminal justice is especially striking now that he’s received the mercy he rarely showed others as the state’s top executive — a commutation Tuesday from President Trump. […]

According to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, Blagojevich took action on fewer than 25 percent of clemency petitions filed while he was governor, NBC Chicago reported in 2016 — 13 years after the backlog began. A group of Illinoisans with felony records went as far as suing Blagojevich over his inaction on clemency requests. […]

“There were ‘actual innocence’ petitions that some of our clients needed to get compensation for all the years they wrongfully spent in prison, and even those were stalled,” Drizin said. It got so bad that state lawmakers, still during Blagojevich’s tenure, created a workaround process for granting the ultimate forms of expungement because the governor’s office was so ineffective.

* Jennifer Soble, the executive director of the Illinois Prison Project

Illinois has done away with many of the mechanisms that other states rely on to make sure that people who can be safely returned to the community do not languish in prison.

Our state abolished parole in 1978. Eleven years later, Illinois made it extraordinarily difficult, and often impossible, for people in prison to get their sentences reduced through good behavior.

Illinois has no mechanism for releasing the terminally ill or the medically incapacitated. Our state has rendered rehabilitation, personal growth and mercy irrelevant.

In this landscape of despair, executive commutation of a sentence has remained a glimmering hope for thousands upon thousands of people who simply should not be in prison.

We are talking about people like Basil Powell, a 69-year-old man who has served more than 36 years of a natural life sentence for his role as the getaway driver in gas station robberies in which no one was hurt. He was sentenced to die in prison even though he was unarmed during the robberies, even though his armed codefendant went home after six years, and even though he has a wife, a daughter and four grandchildren at home.

Blagojevich, who yesterday was the beneficiary of executive grace, ignored the petition of Basil Powell, just as he ignored thousands upon thousands of other equally reasonable and compelling requests for relief.

* Meanwhile, he has to find a job

Trump’s order specifically noted the president was not commuting the two-year period of supervised release imposed by U.S. Judge James Zagel. Under the conditions, Blagojevich has to meet with probation regularly, cannot leave the jurisdiction without permission and must seek employment.

If he has trouble finding a job, Blagojevich must do at least 20 hours a week of community service until he finds one, with a maximum 200 hours served.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

23 Comments
  1. - Sean - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    He could knockout 200 hours of “community service” in 2.5 weeks and be done with it. I’m not sure he can pull himself away from the cameras long enough to actually complete the hours, though.


  2. - 47th Ward - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:22 am:

    Maybe he can volunteer at Lurie Children’s Hospital, preferably by washing soiled diapers?


  3. - Oak Parker - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:24 am:

    It’s a good thing that criminal justice reform has become a lot more mainstream in the past 15 years.


  4. - Perrid - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:25 am:

    Does the maximum of 200 hours mean he can only take 10 weeks to get a job, or can he stop the community service after 10 weeks without a job?


  5. - Leatherneck - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:27 am:

    - Sean - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    He could knockout 200 hours of “community service” in 2.5 weeks and be done with it. I’m not sure he can pull himself away from the cameras long enough to actually complete the hours, though.
    ————–

    I’m sure the cameras will follow him to his community service projects.


  6. - NIref - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:38 am:

    Biological compost artist?


  7. - Proud Sucker - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:40 am:

    === Maybe he can volunteer at Lurie Children’s Hospital, preferably by washing soiled diapers? ===

    Boom, 47th wins the internet.


  8. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:41 am:

    What would it take for the Feds to recognize gagging the guy as Community Service?


  9. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:41 am:

    “La Shawn Ford of Chicago remembers his first bill: a proposal to eliminate from state job applications the question asking if someone had ever been convicted of a nonviolent crime”

    That bill eventual was passed as the “Ban the Box” law. It will be a big help to La Shawn Ford when he is done in Springfield….

    Friday, November 7, 2014
    Ford was sentenced to six months’ probation after he plead guilty to a misdemeanor tax charge. He has also paid his owed back taxes and will complete 100 hours of community service.


  10. - Commisar Gritty - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:41 am:

    If he’s lookin for work, he’d make one heck of a rug salesman


  11. - RNUG - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:45 am:

    Does talking to the press about the wrongs of the justice system the count as community service?


  12. - Nick Name - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    ===Meanwhile, he has to find a job…===

    Looks like my comment here was more on-topic than I thought:

    https://tinyurl.com/v8pm2nv


  13. - NIU Grad - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    Although he’s avoiding actual interviews, I hope this is the first question asked by a journalist when they get the opportunity: “With all of your talk about the overtly strict justice system, do you feel regret that you did not take any action to rectify it during your many years of public service?”

    This should be asked every time he complains about the “injustice” he faced.


  14. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    Legal assistance to the lawyers tasked to write and process commutations/pardons sent to Governor Pritzker.

    Do all the legwork and intern-like work preparing these documents.


  15. - Norseman - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:50 am:

    Now that he’s become a Trump shill I’m sure CNN would consider adding him to their bevy of shills. Fox will likely be a fallback position for him. All Blago needs to do is dye his hair black again.


  16. - SAP - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    That Just For Men endorsement is just sitting there.


  17. - Wensicia - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 11:13 am:

    Does anyone really believe Blagojevich wants to help others find relief from criminal injustice and wrongful imprisonment, if he had the opportunity?

    It’s all about his supposed suffering, not anyone else’s.


  18. - Pundent - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 11:33 am:

    =Does anyone really believe Blagojevich wants to help others find relief from criminal injustice and wrongful imprisonment, if he had the opportunity?=

    Yes I do. He’s already working on behalf of people like Manafort, Flynn, Gates, and Stone.


  19. - Perrid - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 12:09 pm:

    OW, don’t you think Blago working on someone’s case might hurt them more than help them? The idea is a good penance for him, but might be counterproductive to those he’s “helping”.


  20. - Sayitaintso - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 12:11 pm:

    He should be required to carry around a State Trooper’s hair dryer for 200 hours over 3 months.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 12:13 pm:

    - Perrid -

    You may be quite right, Blago himself wasn’t impressed with his litigating prowess as an assistant SA, but I guess I’m coming at this, 100% snark, but irony too, that this former disgraced governor, who used media and cajoling by his wife, must learn that the outcome of law and processes aren’t predicated by television ratings. Actual work takes place in the system.

    Just a thought. Nothing more.


  22. - Bourbon Street - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 3:18 pm:

    It would be nice if the audiences for Rod’s “Injustice Tour” were packed with former inmates whose petitions for clemency Rod ignored while governor.


  23. - OnlyGoodIdeas - Friday, Feb 21, 20 @ 4:18 pm:

    Blago should get a job as a furniture salesperson. Imagine the commercials of him selling golden chairs, it would leave everyone wanting to buy one


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