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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: 610839

Reported Deaths: 7749
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1266401800
Ramsey53172911
Dakota47328475
Anoka43323465
Washington27717296
Stearns22703227
St. Louis18297319
Scott17719139
Wright16561153
Olmsted13549103
Sherburne1215696
Carver1075749
Clay829692
Rice8261111
Blue Earth771944
Crow Wing689599
Kandiyohi670885
Chisago627654
Otter Tail591187
Benton586698
Goodhue486174
Douglas479281
Mower478233
Winona464652
Itasca463168
Isanti446667
McLeod435161
Morrison428462
Beltrami410763
Nobles410150
Steele401419
Polk390772
Becker389457
Lyon365554
Carlton356958
Freeborn352134
Pine337823
Nicollet334545
Mille Lacs315456
Brown308840
Le Sueur300127
Cass288633
Todd288633
Meeker266244
Waseca241023
Martin237233
Roseau212421
Wabasha20843
Hubbard198341
Dodge19023
Renville183946
Redwood178541
Houston175916
Cottonwood168224
Wadena165223
Fillmore159710
Faribault157220
Chippewa154138
Pennington153920
Kanabec148028
Sibley147410
Aitkin139437
Watonwan13629
Rock129219
Jackson123112
Pipestone117226
Yellow Medicine115420
Pope11406
Swift107618
Murray107410
Koochiching96819
Stevens92611
Clearwater89317
Marshall88917
Lake84520
Wilkin84013
Lac qui Parle76122
Big Stone6094
Grant5958
Lincoln5863
Mahnomen5669
Norman5509
Kittson49122
Unassigned48793
Red Lake4037
Traverse3835
Lake of the Woods3484
Cook1740

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 374664

Reported Deaths: 6109
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58891646
Linn21448342
Scott20426250
Black Hawk16680319
Woodbury15319230
Johnson1473686
Dubuque13595213
Dallas1144099
Pottawattamie11307177
Story1082848
Warren592092
Clinton564393
Cerro Gordo562297
Webster538996
Sioux519174
Muscatine4920106
Marshall491479
Des Moines478275
Jasper452073
Wapello4366123
Buena Vista431040
Plymouth404982
Lee392658
Marion369177
Jones301257
Henry301037
Bremer292763
Carroll286252
Boone271234
Crawford270841
Benton262755
Washington259851
Dickinson250745
Mahaska232551
Jackson225842
Kossuth219166
Clay217327
Tama213372
Delaware211743
Winneshiek200636
Buchanan196734
Page195422
Cedar192923
Hardin191144
Wright189140
Fayette188243
Hamilton186851
Harrison181973
Clayton173057
Butler167835
Madison167719
Floyd164642
Mills163824
Cherokee161538
Lyon160941
Poweshiek159036
Allamakee155552
Hancock153134
Iowa148324
Winnebago145731
Calhoun143113
Cass140855
Grundy139333
Emmet136741
Jefferson134535
Sac132620
Shelby131838
Louisa130249
Union129535
Appanoose128049
Franklin127823
Mitchell127243
Chickasaw125717
Guthrie124532
Humboldt124526
Palo Alto114924
Montgomery106738
Howard105322
Clarke102424
Monroe100633
Keokuk99932
Ida92735
Adair89632
Davis86825
Pocahontas86822
Monona85931
Greene79111
Osceola79017
Lucas77423
Worth7568
Taylor67112
Decatur6629
Fremont64810
Ringgold56824
Van Buren56718
Wayne56323
Audubon52913
Adams3494
Unassigned90
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