Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Blago still making license plates, for the time being

A federal appeals court overturned five of the 18 convictions levied against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, but the court’s ruling isn’t likely to spring him from his prison cell anytime soon.

As you may recall, Blagojevich, the Democrats’ answer to Donald Trump’s hair, was sentenced to 14 years in prison back in 2011. He was convicted of the aforementioned 18 counts of corruption relating to separate schemes to solicit campaign contributions in exchange for toll road contracts and for auctioning off President Obamas former seat in the U.S. Senate.

The five overturned convictions all stem from Blago’s pay-to-play schemes for the vacant Senate seat, something the then-governor defended as just some old-fashioned, backroom politickin’. He’s been in a Colorado prison since March 2012.

The appeals court ruling on Tuesday basically comes down to an improper instruction to the jury, requiring them to treat “all proposals alike” when it came to Blagojevich’s schemes. That means prosecutors can either retry the case completely or, more likely, agree to let the charges drop, which would necessitate a resentencing.

Truckers especially might recall Blagojevich as the governor who repeatedly vetoed bills that would have ended dangerous split-speed limits for cars and trucks in Illinois. Truckers eventually won uniform speeds after Blagojevich was impeached by the General Assembly (his successor, Gov. Pat Quinn, did away with split speeds shortly after taking office in 2009).

In addition to the scandal surrounding the U.S. Senate seat, Blagojevich stood accused in 2008 of soliciting $500,000 in campaign contributions from a cement company in exchange for a $1.8 billion contract to build high-occupancy toll lanes, also known as the “green lanes” project, within the Illinois Tollway system. The scope of that project continues to be modified by the Illinois Tollway Authority, which continues to work on congestion-relief projects involving Interstates 90, 94, 294 and 57, but does not refer to them as “green lanes” or associate them in any way with the impeached governor.

Here’s the bad news for Blago, though. Even though the appeals court threw out the convictions, the judges stated the remaining sentence was not unreasonable, given the scope of Blagojevich’s remaining crimes.

Senior Editor David Tanner contributed to this report.