George Ryan prosecutor calls Blagojevich 'a very flawed messenger'
Yes, his sentence was tough, but it doesn't change the fact former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was guilty of corruption after promising to clean up Illinois, said the former prosecutor who helped convict former Gov. George Ryan in 2006.
Hours after President Donald Trump commuted his 14-year sentence for extortion, Blagojevich held a news conference outside his Chicago home.
"How do you properly thank someone for giving you back the freedom that was stolen from you?" Blagojevich said.
"It is a broken criminal justice system ... and it's a racist criminal justice system."
Attorney Patrick Collins, who led the legal team that successfully prosecuted Ryan for racketeering, disagreed.
"I don't see him (Blagojevich) as a person emblematic of a racist criminal justice system," the Lisle resident said. "I see him as a corrupt public official who attempted to sell his office and did it.
"And very importantly, (Blagojevich) did it after the last governor of Illinois was convicted of corruption. He went down a similar -- and some would argue -- more corrupt road."
Blagojevich was found guilty in 2011 of shaking down a children's hospital CEO and a construction company owner to get campaign donations, and of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama to the highest bidder.
However, given his crimes were nonviolent, "I thought the sentence was unduly harsh. ... Gov. George Ryan got 6½ years," Collins said.
And as someone in private practice and who works as a defense attorney, "I agree the criminal justice system has significant issues of equity and access," he said.
Blagojevich "has a right to speak out on it, but I think he's a very flawed messenger."
After Ryan was convicted, Blagojevich pledged a cleaner administration, Collins said. "The wire taps show the underbelly of the administration and he has no one to blame other than himself."
"For him to be an effective spokesperson on these important criminal justice issues, merely calling the system 'racist' -- without providing examples or anecdotes, or more importantly, recommending solutions to the problems -- makes him sound like a politician seeking publicity rather than a sincere person committed to the cause."