STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

President Trump pardons DeBartolo, commutes Blagojevich sentence

U.S. President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump

Former NYPD commissioner and Michael Milken also given clemency.

Posted: Feb 18, 2020 3:43 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has gone on a clemency blitz, commuting the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and pardoning former NYPD commissioner Bernie Kerik, among a long list of others.

Trump also told reporters that he has pardoned financier Michael Milken, who pleaded guilty for violating U.S. securities laws and served two years in prison in the early 1990s. Trump also pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal who built one of the most successful NFL teams in the game’s history.

Blagojevich, who appeared on Trump’s reality TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice," was convicted of political corruption, including seeking to sell an appointment to Barack Obama's old Senate seat and trying to shake down a children's hospital. But Trump said he had been subjected to a “ridiculous sentence" that didn't fit his crimes.

Kerik served just over three years for tax fraud and lying to the White House while being interviewed to be Homeland Security secretary.

“We have Bernie Kerik, we have Mike Milken, who's gone around and done an incredible job,” Trump said, adding that Milken had “paid a big price.”

Earlier, the White House announced that Trump had pardoned DeBartolo Jr., who was involved in one of the biggest owners’ scandals in the sport’s history. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license.

He also pardoned Ariel Friedler, a technology entrepreneur, who pleaded guilty to accessing a computer without authorization; Paul Pogue a construction company owner who underpaid his taxes; David Safavian, who was convicted of obstructing an investigation into a trip he took while he was a senior government official; and Angela Stanton, an author who served a six-month home sentence for her role in a stolen vehicle ring.

Blagojevich, a Democrat who hails from a state with a long history of pay-to-play schemes, 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.”

Blagojevich’s conviction was notable, even in a state where four of the last 10 governors have gone to prison for corruption. Judge James Zagel — who in 2011 sentenced Blagojevich to the longest prison term yet for an Illinois politician — said when a governor “goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured."

Blagojevich became the brunt of jokes for foul-mouthed rants on wiretaps released after his Dec. 9, 2008, arrest while still governor. On the most notorious recording, he gushes about profiting by naming someone to the seat Obama vacated to become president: "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden. And I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing."

When Trump publicly broached the idea in May 2018 of intervening to free Blagojevich, he downplayed the former governor’s crimes. He said Blagojevich was convicted for "being stupid, saying things that every other politician, you know, that many other politicians say." He said Blagojevich’s sentence was too harsh.

Prosecutors have balked at the notion long fostered by Blagojevich that he engaged in common political horse-trading and was a victim of an overzealous U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald said after Blagojevich's arrest that the governor had gone on "a political corruption crime spree" that would make Abraham Lincoln turn over in his grave.

Mueller — a subject of Trump's derision — was FBI director during the investigation into Blagojevich. Fitzgerald is now a private attorney for another former FBI director, James Comey, whom Trump dismissed from the agency in May 2017.

Trump also expressed some sympathy for Blagojevich when he appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2010 before his first corruption trial started. As Trump "fired" Blagojevich as a contestant, he praised him for how he was fighting his criminal case, telling him: "You have a hell of a lot of guts."

He later poll-tested the matter, asking for a show of hands of those who supported clemency at an October, 2019 fundraiser at his Chicago hotel. Most of the 200 to 300 attendees raised their hands, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing several people at the event.

Blagojevich testified at his 2011 retrial, describing himself as a flawed dreamer grounded in his parents' working-class values. He sought to humanize himself to counteract the blunt, profane, seemingly greedy Blagojevich heard on wiretap recordings played in court by prosecutors over several weeks. He said the hours of FBI recordings were the ramblings of a politician who liked to think out loud.

But jurors accepted evidence that Blagojevich demanded a $50,000 donation from the head of a children's hospital in return for increased state support, and extorted $100,000 in donations from two horse racing tracks and a racing executive in exchange for quick approval of legislation the tracks wanted.

He originally convicted on 18 counts, including lying to the FBI, wire fraud for trying to trade an appointment to the Obama seat for contributions, and for the attempted extortion of a children's hospital executive. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in 2015 tossed five of 18 convictions, including ones in which he offered to appoint someone to a high-paying job in the Senate.

The appeals court ordered the trial judge to resentence Blagojevich, but suggested it would be appropriate to hand him the same sentence, given the gravity of the crimes. Blagojevich appeared via live video from prison during the 2016 resentencing and asked for leniency. The judge gave him the same 14-year term, saying it was below federal guidelines when he imposed it the first time.

Blagojevich had once aspired to run for president himself but entered the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in suburban Denver in 2012, disgraced and broke. Court documents filed by his lawyers in 2016 portrayed Blagojevich — known as brash in his days as governor — as humble and self-effacing, as well as an insightful life coach and lecturer on everything from the Civil War to Richard Nixon. Blagojevich, an Elvis Presley fan, also formed a prison band called "The Jailhouse Rockers."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 549830

Reported Deaths: 7067
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1145171675
Ramsey47380851
Dakota42007420
Anoka38065415
Washington24723273
Stearns20819218
St. Louis16620297
Scott15798117
Wright14643125
Olmsted1268297
Sherburne1046080
Carver970145
Clay777389
Rice7554101
Blue Earth690640
Kandiyohi623979
Crow Wing607986
Chisago543749
Otter Tail539373
Benton526097
Mower449532
Douglas438970
Goodhue438271
Winona437249
Nobles398748
Morrison391159
McLeod387854
Beltrami370557
Isanti370359
Itasca366052
Polk362467
Steele357714
Becker350248
Lyon346748
Carlton327052
Freeborn325029
Pine309221
Nicollet304142
Brown293139
Mille Lacs277350
Le Sueur268022
Todd267230
Cass247426
Meeker232737
Waseca229520
Martin211529
Wabasha19913
Roseau195518
Hubbard170541
Dodge17033
Renville169743
Redwood165435
Houston162114
Cottonwood155320
Fillmore15149
Pennington149519
Chippewa144636
Faribault142919
Wadena142721
Sibley134910
Aitkin127836
Kanabec127621
Watonwan12529
Rock121719
Jackson115910
Yellow Medicine110119
Pipestone109125
Murray10209
Pope10146
Swift98618
Marshall85317
Stevens80510
Lake78019
Clearwater76614
Wilkin76512
Koochiching76212
Lac qui Parle73422
Big Stone5594
Lincoln5572
Grant5438
Norman5209
Mahnomen4948
Unassigned48278
Kittson46222
Red Lake3857
Traverse3595
Lake of the Woods2993
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 356912

Reported Deaths: 5810
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55819602
Linn20248329
Scott18949234
Black Hawk15517306
Woodbury14872220
Johnson1397781
Dubuque13115202
Dallas1087696
Pottawattamie10703162
Story1028547
Warren553586
Clinton536490
Cerro Gordo521186
Webster507991
Sioux505073
Marshall476874
Muscatine457896
Des Moines440665
Wapello4250120
Buena Vista421440
Jasper407670
Plymouth396779
Lee367755
Marion354375
Jones292955
Henry285937
Carroll279050
Bremer278960
Crawford262039
Boone257833
Benton249655
Washington249249
Dickinson240643
Mahaska224049
Jackson217842
Kossuth212362
Clay209825
Tama206571
Delaware202539
Winneshiek193933
Page190320
Buchanan188231
Cedar183423
Fayette182841
Wright180135
Hardin179242
Hamilton177949
Harrison175373
Clayton166655
Butler162434
Mills158020
Cherokee156738
Floyd155242
Lyon154341
Madison153519
Poweshiek152433
Allamakee149051
Iowa145324
Hancock143334
Winnebago135831
Grundy135032
Cass134354
Calhoun133111
Jefferson130535
Emmet128340
Shelby127337
Sac126819
Appanoose126647
Louisa126549
Mitchell125241
Union124032
Chickasaw122515
Humboldt118126
Guthrie117729
Franklin112521
Palo Alto110421
Howard102822
Montgomery100237
Unassigned10020
Clarke98023
Keokuk94430
Monroe93528
Ida89433
Adair84332
Pocahontas83321
Monona80930
Davis79924
Greene76410
Osceola75016
Lucas74922
Worth7078
Taylor65112
Fremont61210
Decatur5899
Van Buren55518
Ringgold53423
Wayne51923
Audubon4949
Adams3284
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 52°
Mason City
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 53°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 54°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 54°
Charles City
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 54°
Slight warm up into the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events