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United States President Donald Trump has granted clemency to 11 white-collar criminals, including former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on February 18.
The president has suggested that Blagojevich’s prosecution is linked to Trump’s longtime opposer, former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey who is a close friend of former US attorney in Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald, whose last name he misstated as “Fitzpatrick” when speaking to reporters on the matter.
“We have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich. He served eight years in jail – a long time. I watched his wife on television, I don’t know him very well, I’ve met him a couple of times. He was on for a short while on ‘The Apprentice’ years ago. He’s very far from his children, they’re growing older, they’re going to high school now. They don’t get to see their father outside of an orange uniform. I saw that and I did commute his sentence. So he’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail. That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion and in the opinion of many others. … It was a prosecution by the same people – Comey, Fitzpatrick – the same group,” Trump said at Joint Base Andrews, an air base in Maryland.
What was Blagojevich found guilty of?
Fitzgerald had led the prosecution against Blagojevich in 2009. Blagojevich was found guilty of attempting to sell a US Senate seat and has since served eight years out of a 14-year sentence. Trump had mooted the pardoning of Blagojevich in 2018 and again in August 2019.
Blagojevich was released from the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution in Colorado where he had been detained since 2012. His wife announced on Twitter that a homecoming press conference is to be held at the Blagojevich family home on February 19. “ANNOUNCEMENT: Rod Blagojevich Homecoming Press Conferece: [sic] Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 at the Blagojevich Family Residence. 11:00 am (CST),” Patti Blagojevich tweeted.
Commissioner Bernie Kerik and ‘junk bond king’ pardoned
Former New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bernie Kerik who was reportedly convicted for lying to the White House and tax crimes is also among those who were pardoned by Trump on February 18. Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after admitting to his crimes.
Investment banker and philanthropist, Mike Milken, known as the ‘Junk Bond King’ has also been pardoned for his reported felony charges in 1990, which include securities fraud and conspiracy.