Disgraced Illinois former governor tries to return | Chicago News


The only Illinois governor to be impeached and removed from office was back at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago on Monday, but this time it was of his own accord – rather than in as an accused in criminal proceedings which resulted in his conviction on corruption charges, including attempted extortion and conspiracy to pay bribes.

Blagojevich, a lawyer whose license to practice law was revoked following his conviction, was there to file a criminal complaint that would allow him to return to another previous profession: politics.

“I haven’t had much luck in this building to begin with, but I’ll try,” Blagojevich said Monday at a press conference outside the courthouse. “There are important constitutional issues involved here, issues such as the militarization and politicization of prosecution and impeachment, and the criminalization of necessary, legal and routine practices that take place all the time in government policy. “

Although he claims his innocence, Blagojevich does not seek to overturn the criminal convictions that led to him spending nearly eight years in prison, until former President Donald Trump in February 2020 commuted the rest of his life. sentence of 14 years.

On the contrary, Blagojevich maintains that his civil rights and due process were violated when the General Assembly dismissed him and removed him from office in 2009.

The then Senate also passed a resolution barring Blagojevich from running for or holding any local or state office in Illinois.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich speaks about his criminal complaint outside the Dirksen Federal Building on Monday, August 2, 2021 (WTTW News)

Blagojevich’s complaint alleges that “preventing him from running for state or local public office outweighs any harm that might be caused by denying voters the right to vote for or against him in an election free ”.

The former Democrat, who now calls himself “Trumpster,” alleges in his complaint that he was denied the opportunity to call and cross-examine witnesses, including FBI agents, during the legislative process of 2009.

At the time, current Illinois House GOP leader Jim Durkin, a former federal prosecutor, was the lead Republican on the chamber impeachment panel.

Durkin calls Blagojevich’s claims an “outright lie.”

“You can’t complain about the lack of process when you’re not participating. He gave up all the rights he now claims to have been denied, ”Durkin said.

Former federal prosecutor Jeff Cramer, now chief executive of investigative firm Guidepost Solutions, said Blagojevich had an “uphill battle” to make his point.

“It’s interesting: when he says he couldn’t call some witnesses and therefore was denied due process – and if it was in court, if it was in the Federal building Dirksen, that would be a good argument, because as we all know, defendants have the right to call witnesses. However, it was not a criminal proceeding, it was not a judicial proceeding. (Impeachment and impeachment) was a political decision, ”Cramer said.

Impeachment is inherently a political process, and with few precedents, Durkin stresses.

Still, Blagojevich may have a narrow path.

“If there was a political system that said, ‘Some people can’t run for office,’ we would all say, ‘Well that’s outrageous, it robs someone of due process.’ So there’s a certain level where he reaches a violation of federal civil rights, if you will, or a due process right, which is basically what he’s arguing, ”Cramer said.

If a federal judge does not dismiss the complaint out of hand, Blagojevich requests a jury trial.

The former governor doesn’t make a particularly sympathetic figure, Cramer said.

If he succeeds, whether Illinois voters would take him back is a whole other question.

Blagojevich, whose famous bouffant turned white on his release from prison last year but now appears to be darker skinned and sprinkled with gray, said he ran, but only in the physical sense: he has long been a prolific jogger.

But he said he “may” or “may not” run for office in the future if the trial paves the way for it.

“I don’t intend to report to any particular office,” Blagojevich said, noting that the campaigns – and his legal issues – were difficult for his family.

But he said he wasn’t ruling it out.

“I feel like I have been a good governor,” he said. “I did things for people.”

Durkin said he supported the actions of the legislature in 2009, including the Senate resolution explicitly banning Blagojevich from running as a dog catcher, leader of a local mosquito control district, Chicago city councilor, or Governor of Illinois.

“We thought it was a good idea. Illinois has a long history of corruption at the highest levels. With the governors, ”said Durkin.

Durkin said he believes the lawsuit is Blagojevich’s latest call to public attention.

“Since being out of prison for a little while, he’s been going through separation anxiety with the press… so it’s just another way for him to generate activity and let people know that he is. still out there, but also to nurture what I believe to be a very bloated ego, ”Durkin said.

A film crew was on hand for the press conference on Monday; Blagojevich didn’t want to say who they were, but a member of the team said he was with ABC News, which is producing a documentary about Blagojevich that will air in the fall.

Blagojevich, who said he makes money making video clips on Cameo, a web service in which fans pay for a personalized celebrity video message, is also writing a book.

The former governor did not appear to be aware of Illinois’ Elected Misconduct Act, a law passed during his Springfield saga – come to think of himself – that could prevent him from reaping profits from the selling books if the story centers on its wrongdoing right.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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