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Tag: Blagojevich

Trump Dishes Out Clemencies to Rod Blagojevich, Bernie Kerik, Michael Milken and More

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

President Donald Trump, apparently emboldened by his acquittal in the Senate, is dishing out clemencies to some big-time names.

On Tuesday, a White House press release said:

Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting Full Pardons to the following individuals: Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Michael Milken, Ariel Friedler, Bernard Kerik, Paul Pogue, David Safavian, and Angela Stanton.  In addition, President Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting commutations to Rod Blagojevich, Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz, and Judith Negron.

Trump granted a pardon to Michael Milken, who was charged with insider trading in the 1980s and to Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers football team, who pleaded guilty two decades ago for failing to report a felony.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, began serving a 14-year sentence in 2012 for corruption that included selling Barack Obama’s senate seat.

“He served eight years in jail – a long time,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews, according to USA Today. “Many people disagree with the sentence.”

Kerik and Milkin are no longer in prison. DeBartolo paid and fine and was put on probation.

DeBartolo Jr. pleaded guilty to failing to report a bribe, testifying in a gambling fraud and corruption case against former Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards (D) in 1998 that the governor extorted him for $400,000 in exchange for approval of a riverboat casino license. DeBartolo paid the money and the state licensing board unanimously approved his project, according to the Washington Post. 

DeBartolo, a billionaire, had to pay $1 million in fines, was placed on two year’s probation and handed the NFL team over to his sister.

Read full White House press release below:

Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting Full Pardons to the following individuals: Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Michael Milken, Ariel Friedler, Bernard Kerik, Paul Pogue, David Safavian, and Angela Stanton.  In addition, President Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting commutations to Rod Blagojevich, Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz, and Judith Negron.

Edward DeBartolo, Jr., is a successful businessman, real estate developer, and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  During the 23 years that he owned the San Francisco 49ers, the team won an unprecedented 13 division titles and 5 Super Bowl Championships.  In 1998, he was convicted for failing to report a felony regarding payment demanded for a riverboat casino license, and he was sentenced to 2 years’ probation.  Mr. DeBartolo did not allow his conviction to define his life.  He remained a generous philanthropist and passionate supporter of numerous charitable causes, including charter schools like the Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School, and anti-gang violence initiatives.  His exceptional compassion and warmth define his character to this day.  Mr. DeBartolo treated players and coaches as part of his family.  Many prominent individuals from the National Football League have strongly advocated for this pardon, including Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, Derrick Brooks, Fred Dean, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, and Roger Goodell.  They have been joined in their support by other notable figures and organizations, including Pastor Darrell Scott, Kareem Lanier, Paul Anka, and the Urban Revitalization Coalition.

Read more »

Judge Doesn’t Budge on Lowering Blagojevich’s Sentence Despite Apology and Daughters’ Tears

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Rod Blagojevich and his family hoped that a federal judge in Chicago on Tuesday would reduce the ex-Illinois governor’s 14-year sentence during a resentencing hearing. But that didn’t happen.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Blago’s  young daughters wept openly in the front row of a federal courtroom and clutched their mom. Their dad, who is locked up at a federal prison in Colorado, appeared in court via a video transmission. He now sports stark white hair.

“I made mistakes,” Blagojevich, 59, said, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “I regret those mistakes and those judgments. And I’m sorry, your honor. I wish I could find a way to turn the clock back and make different choices. But that is not possible.”

But U.S. District Judge James Zagel was unmoved and reinstated the 14-year prison sentence despite an appellate court ruling that tossed five of Blagojevich’s convictions last year,  the paper reported.

Other politicians who have gotten stiff sentences for public corruption convictions in recent years include former New Orleans Congressman William Jefferson, who got 13 years and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was sentenced to 28 years.

Judge Zagel: Blago Set and Sought Senate Seat Price

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday faced the first of two days of hearings for his sentencing on public corruption charges.

The usually chatty ex-governor had walked quietly out of his home earlier in the morning and into the courtroom via a passage blocked off to the media he once revelled in, a Chicago Tribune blog reported.  He declined to comment to the media.

Before the trial began Blagojevich bent over to kiss his wife Patti, saying “I love you.”

The defense argued Blagojevich did not gain any money from the allegations, while the prosecution pointed to “bountiful” evidence of what Blagojevich expected to gain.

Of the $1.5 million Blagojevich sought for the senate seat, Judge James Zagel said “”It was a price he put on it. The price he expected to receive,” tweeted Chicago Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney.

Blagojevich, arrested in December of 2008, was convicted of 1 of 24 counts — lying to an FBI agent — in his first trial. The second proved far more fruitful for the prosecution, which convicted him on 17 of 20 counts, including his famous attempt to sell or trade Barack Obama’s Senate seat for his own benefit.

During the feds probe of Blago, the FBI caught his now-famous line on tape: “I’ve got this thing, and it’s [expletive] golden,” he said of the Senate seat. Since his arrest state lawmakers approved a series of campaign finance reforms and transparency laws.

Before and during the trial Blagojevich repeatedly proclaimed his innocence in the national media, appearing regularly on news and talk shows, including The View. Many speculated early on that the media campaign could hurt him at sentencing.

“Throughout, on his television appearances, he showed a failure to accept responsibility for his actions. He maintained his innocence and seemed to be willing to do anything to continue maintaining that,” Rodger Heaton, a former U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois, previously told ticklethewire.com. “I think that will be one factor.”

Blagojevich served as a state legislator in both Washington and the Illinois capital of Springfield. He got his start in Chicago with the help of longtime city alderman Richard Mell, a powerful Democratic politician on the city’s Northwest Side. He was elected governor of Illinois in 2002 and impeached on January 9, 2009. He was banned in a separate vote from ever holding public office in the state of Illinois in the future.

Blago Fundraiser Gets 10 1/2 Years for Extorting Millions

By Danny Fenster
ticklethwire.com

A top fundraiser and advisor to ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich got handed a stiff sentence Tuesday in Chicago federal court for extorting millions of dollars in exchange for regulatory approval or business.

Fundraiser  Antoin “Tony” Rezko was sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison — a sentence that prompted Rezko’s daughter to burst into tears, reports the Chicago Tribune. Judge Amy St. Eve told Rezko his “selfish and corrupt actions” have threatened people’s trust in government.

The tough sentence could be the preview as to what’s to come next month when none other than Blagojevich himself is sentenced.

Rezko has been in prison since his 2008 conviction, but the sentencing was delayed because federal prosecutors thought he may have needed to be called a witness at other key trials related to the probe of the Blagojevich administration, the Tribune reported.

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called the sentence “a wake-up call.”

“I don’t know how many times we’ve had sentences of 10 1/2 years” in public corruption cases, Fitzgerald said, according to the Tribune.

Which raises a question. As ticklethewire.com reported previously, some see the upcoming Blagojevich sentencing as a chance for Illinois to send a very strong, very pubic message against widespread corruption in local and state government. Could this be the stern warning, the “wake up call” that was needed? Would that mean a lighter sentence for Blagojevich? Or is this only the beginning of an overdue crackdown?

Blagojevich conducted an extensive media campaign covered by the national press before his guilty conviction. While most Chicagoans know the name Tony Rezko, he does not have the national profile that Rod Blagojevich does. A stiff Blago sentencing would surely send a stronger, or at least louder, message.

Only time will tell. Balgojevich’s sentencing is set for December.

To read more click here.

It’s Almost Blago Time Again; Sentencing Set for Dec. 6

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s almost Blago time again.

The Chicago Tribune reports that U.S. District Judge James Zagel of Chicago set sentencing for the ever-chatty, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Dec. 6.

Blago almost skated in his first public corruption trial when the jury convicted on only 1 of 24 counts. It deadlocked on the remainder.

But the second time around, in a retrial, the prosecution tightened up and simplified its case. The jury convicted Blago on 17 or 20 public corruption counts.

The Tribune reported that Blago’s attorney said his client intends to speak at the sentencing hearing.

co-defendant, William Cellini, a Springfield power broker who was convicted last wee

Blagojevich Sentencing Delayed, Few Surprised

facebook photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

U.S. District Judge James Zagel has delayed the Oct. 6 sentencing for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich,  reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The sentencing has been delayed because Judge Zagel is set to start a trial on October 3 for William Cellini, a Springfield power broker who himself is alleged to have extorted campaign contributions for Blagojevich.  That trial is expected to last beyond the October 6.

Blagojevich was convicted on 17 of 20 counts at his retrial, including trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president. The first trial ended with Blago being convicted on only 1 of 24 counts, with the jury deadlocking on the remainder.

Prosecutors are expected to seek a 30-year prison sentence, reports McClatchy.

The delay comes as no surprise to most following the case. Speaking to ticklethewire.com last week about a related story, legal expert and frequent television news commentator Jami Floyd predicted the delay because of the Cellini trial.

“A judge who’s in the middle of a big trial is not going to delay that trial for sentencing — no matter whom the defendant is,” she said. “I’m betting the former governor is going to have to get in line, with everyone else, to wait for the Judge’s calendar to open up.”

Blagojevich’s attorney Shelly Sorosky seemed to expect the delay too. “It’s not going to happen,” the Sun-Times had quoted him as saying before the announcement. “[To stop the Cellini trial] would taint the Cellini jury. I’m quite certain it will be continued,” he said.

A new sentencing date has yet to be set.

Closings in Blago II; He’s a Liar and Swindler and His Testimony Was “Absurd”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Surprise Surprise (not really).

Federal prosecutor Carrie Hamilton delivered closing arguments on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in downtown Chicago, calling defendant Rod Blagojevich a liar and a swindler, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. And oh yes, she said his seven days of testimony was “absurd” and “ludicrous.”

The closings marked the beginning of the end for Blago II, the sequel to the first trial which didn’t go so well for the prosecution. It convicted Blago on only one of 24 counts — lying to the FBI. The jury deadlocked on the remaining counts.

This time around, the prosecution tried to simplify the case after the jury in Blago I complained the case was too complicated.

She asked the jury to keep this in mind, according to the Sun-Times:

“Did the defendant try to get a benefit for himself in exchange for an official act?”

“That’s really all this case and these charges boil down to, and it’s really not any more complicated than that,” Hamilton said.

The Sun-Times wrote that the prosecutor  tried to address what some see as a weakness in the case: Blago talked a lot but never completed any illegal acts.

“The law protects people from being squeezed,” Hamilton said. “The harm is done when the ask is made because that’s the violation of the people’s trust.”

Her closing continues Thursday, the Sun-Times reported.

Blago’s Attorney Could Call Pres. Obama as a Witness in June 3 Trial

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The realty-TV feel of the ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich public corruption case could get all the more intense if the defense calls President Barack Obama as a witness.

One of Blagojevich’s attorneys, Samuel Adams, on Wednesday hinted of the possibility of calling the President as a witness during trial, saying it would be “an awesome experience in any career” to question the leader of the Free World, according to Associated Press.

But Adams said it was too soon to tell whether it will be necessary, the AP reported. The President-elect had been interviewed by the FBI after allegations surfaced that the colorful Blagojevich was trying to sell Obama’s vacated senate seat. Obama is not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Blagojevich, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, faces a 19-count indictment that  includes allegatations of trying to sell the senate seat and fundraising abuses.  Trial is set for June 3.