President Donald Trump says he has commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Trump on Tuesday told reporters the former governor's sentence was “ridiculous.”
Blagojevich began serving a 14-year federal prison sentence in 2012. He was convicted on 11 criminal counts related to his effort to sell the former U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president.
Blagojevich, who hails from a state with a long history of pay-to-play schemes, is expected to walk out of prison later Tuesday, according to a person close to him, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not seen any signed paperwork.
The 63-year-old Democrat exhausted his last appellate option in 2018 and had seemed destined to remain behind bars until his projected 2024 release date. His wife, Patti, went on a media blitz in 2018 to encourage Trump to step in, praising the president and likening the investigation of her husband to special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — a probe Trump long characterized as a “witchhunt.”
“Rod Blagojevich, the former Governor of Illinois, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He has served 7 years,” Trump had tweeted in August of 2019. "Many people have asked that I study the possibility of commuting his sentence in that it was a very severe one. White House staff is continuing the review of this matter.”
Blagojevich was also convicted on six counts related to campaign contribution shakedowns, including one count which said he essentially tried to trade $8 million in added state funding to pediatric specialists for a $25,000 campaign donation from a hospital CEO.
In 2015, five of those counts were thrown out in appellate courts, although his 14-year sentence was reimposed months later.
In Aug., 2019, Illinois political leaders from both parties said Blagojevich should remain in prison despite Trump’s statement that he was considering commuting the sentence of the ex-governor.
Trump ultimately did not commute Blagojevich's sentence in August.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.