Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two Illinois Governors now serving time


If I hadn’t watched the news coverage, I wouldn’t have believed that ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich would really end up in federal prison. Yet that is exactly where he now lives—at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado, far from his Chicago home and his wife and two daughters.
I have thought about him from time-to-time, after learning about his arrest, conviction, and ultimately, what seemed to me, to be a harsh sentence.
I cannot imagine the kind of agony he and his family must have felt knowing that he, a two-term Governor of the State of Illinois, husband and father, would have to report to prison, to live in an unfriendly, alien environment among common thieves and murderers.

Blagojevich understood freedom. His family fought to enjoy the kind of freedom the United States has to offer. He had to be painfully aware of what it might be like to lose it. I’m sure he was glad his hard-working, immigrant father wasn’t alive to see what had become of his son.
The kind of disgrace that must accompany his fall from glory had to be personally devastating. Yet he seemed to accept his fate. And he did it with some measure of class.
English: Cropped photo of Rod Blagovitch greet...
Rod Blagovitch during happier times
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence is almost unbelievable, when considering that his predecessor George Ryan was sentenced to only 6 1/2 years. There is no comparison between the two men, the cases against them or most of all, their personalities and demeanor.
I’ve known both men. I liked Blagojevich. I didn’t like Ryan.
The case against Ryan was far reaching, based only on a small sample of his illegal, unethical, immoral deeds. Yet the charges against Blagojevich seemed to reach for a convictable offense.
Both men were far too arrogant for their own good, but there was a huge difference there as well. Ryan was nasty arrogant, while Blagojevich was charming. Ryan had little or no conscience about hurting people—anyone in his path or outside his small circle of friends and acquaintances.
Blagojevich had the opposite motive. He never wanted to hurt anyone, although he wasn’t above using them to achieve his personal goals. His downfall was that he put himself above them. While that might not be a positive character trait, it certainly isn’t a crime.
I suspect there is more to this case than meets the eye. And because of a pending appeal, it isn’t over yet. I am anxious to see what transpires during Blagojevich’s appeal to the Illinois Appellate court. It clearly will not take on the extraordinary measures of Ryan’s appeal process, where one of the state’s most high-powered attorneys and a former governor himself, James Thompson waged a battle of unprecedented proportion. Thompson tried every legal trick in the book to keep his client out of jail; and he did it for free.
I sincerely doubt such extremes will be offered in Blagojevich’s case. Contrarily, it seems extremes were waged just to win his conviction.
There was one common thread between the two governors—both had dealings with Jesse Jackson, Jr. who remains under investigation.