The U.S. Supreme Court has denied former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appeal to reduce his 14-year prison sentence. He is scheduled to be released in 2024.
This was Blagojevich’s final attempt to get his sentence reduced. The Supreme Court also rejected an appeal in 2016.
What's the background?
Blagojevich was arrested for abusing his authority in December 2008. In January 2009, the Illinois state Senate removed him from office.
Blagojevich was convicted in 2011 on 18 counts of corruption, including for trying to sell former President Barack Obama’s seat in the U.S. Senate in 2008 after he was elected president. He was caught on taping discussing Obama’s seat, saying “you just don’t give it away for nothing.”
He was also convicted of attempting to extort a children’s hospital, to coerce the hospital's CEO into making a campaign contribution.
What's the reaction?
In a statement, Blagojevich’s wife said that his family “could not be more disappointed” with the decision. Blagojevich’s lawyer, Len Goodman (not the "Dancing with the Stars" judge), released a statement characterizing this development as a miscarriage of justice.
“The Supreme Court has decided not to correct a dangerous conflict in the law that makes it incredibly easy for federal prosecutors in Midwest cities like Chicago to jail elected officials, while prosecutors on the coasts have a much higher burden. Rod Blagojevich never sought a bribe or a kickback; he never took a penny from his campaign fund; he never promised anything to any donor in exchange for a campaign donation. Yet he is serving one of the longest prison sentences ever handed down to an elected official.”
The justices did not give their reasons for refusing the appeal. Four of the nine Supreme Court justices would have had to have agreed to hear the case in order for it to move forward.
In 2015, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voided five of Blagojevich’s convictions, but a U.S. district judge reimposed the full length of his sentence.
What’s next for Blagojevich?
After this rejection from the Supreme Court, Blagojevich has very limited options remaining.
One of the few remaining possibilities, albeit an unlikely one, would be a pardon from President Donald Trump. Blagojevich appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2010, after he had already been removed from office.
In an interview with Forbes magazine after Blagojevich was convicted, Trump called the situation “a tragedy,” and said he “felt bad for him [Blagojevich] and his family.” “It just seemed like he was in over his head, you know what I mean?” Trump said.