SPRINGFIELD — There are few kind or sad words from Illinois’ political leaders for Rod Blagojevich.

By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD — There are few kind or sad words from Illinois’ political leaders for Rod Blagojevich.

The feeling from leaders in Springfield and Washington, D.C., is that Illinois can move on, now that a federal jury convicted the former governor on 17 of 20 corruption charges.

Gov. Pat Quinn said the jury made its decision based on the evidence — and the facts.

“Rod Blagojevich deceived and mislead lots and lots of people in Illinois, the voters included,” Quinn said. “And the facts that came out in this trial, and the conviction by the jury, speak for themselves.”

Blagojevich was found guilty Monday of most of the corruption charges he was facing. The former governor was convicted of fraud and extortion for trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, as well as a scheme to shakedown an Illinois horse track owner.

The jury found Blagojevich not guilty of trying to shake down a Chicago school with ties to Ari Blagojevich, the brother of now-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

FBI agents arrested Blagojevich in December 2008, and he was indicted a few months later. Illinois lawmakers voted to remove Blagojevich from office between the time of his arrest and his indictment.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the jury’s verdict backs up the impeachment that lawmakers undertook after Blagojevich’s arrest in late 2008.

“Today is another sad event for Illinois. I would hope that this verdict would further allow us as a state to move on and ahead,” Cullerton said in a statement.

Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, echoed that sentiment.

“I am as anxious as everyone to now put this sordid chapter in our state’s history behind us. But some will want to use this verdict to close the door on reform,” Radogno said in a statement. “Instead, it is our job as elected officials to make sure the public has confidence in the integrity of their government.”

David Morrison, associate director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, or ICPR, had the harshest words for the former governor. ICPR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan “public interest group that conducts research and advocates reforms to promote public participation in government,” according to its website.

“The jury today has ratified the sense of millions of Illinoisans, that Rod Blagojevich was a pox on Illinois’ political system,” Morrison said in a statement. “His conviction also serves as a warning that no one is above the law and that anyone today thinking of abusing the public trust for their private benefit should consider the very real consequences.”

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who lost to Blagojevich in the 2006 race for governor, said Illinois voters won a victory.

“I hope that today’s verdict delivers a reminder that elected leaders serve the public, not the other way around — and they will be held accountable, even if it takes a while,” said Topinka.

The verdict even brought responses from Illinois’ leaders in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said the verdict shows that no one is above the law.

“This decision is the culmination of a tumultuous two and a half years for the people of Illinois, and Rod Blagojevich must now face the consequences of his corrupt actions,” Kirk said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Aaron Shock, R-District 18, blasted Blagojevich as the “most corrupt governor in Illinois history.”

“At long last, Rod Blagojevich has been found guilty. He has put Illinois through the wringer with his corruption as governor and then with his antics on trial,” said Shock in a statement. “His outrageous behavior before and after being impeached as governor has shamed Illinois.”

Blagojevich told reporters in Chicago that the verdict “stunned” him.

The jury in his first trial convicted Blagojevich of one charge — lying to the FBI. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining charges.

The former governor said Monday that he was headed home to spend time with his daughters.

The judge in the case said Blagojevich cannot leave the Chicago area without the court’s permission. Blagojevich faces a lengthy prison term when he is sentenced, though the judge did not say when the sentencing would be.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.