Law license at stake, Blagojevich skips hearing

  • Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich waved to supporters from the front porch of his Chicago home last week, one day after President Donald Trump commuted his 14-year federal prison sentence.

      Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich waved to supporters from the front porch of his Chicago home last week, one day after President Donald Trump commuted his 14-year federal prison sentence. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/25/2020 6:53 PM

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich shouldn't be able to work as an attorney now that he's home after President Donald Trump knocked six years off his federal prison sentence for corruption, disciplinary commission lawyers argued Tuesday.

A panel met to consider permanently revoking Blagojevich's law license, which has been suspended since 2011 after his conviction for wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion. The three-person Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission panel issued no ruling Tuesday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Blagojevich, 63, didn't attend the Chicago hearing, leading commission litigation counsel Christopher Heredia to complain about the former governor's "dismissive attitude" toward the proceedings.

Heredia cited what he described as Blagojevich's "moral turpitude" as one reason for disbarment. He defined moral turpitude as "anything contrary to honesty, justice and good morals."

"If this isn't contrary to honesty, justice and good morals, I don't know what is," Heredia said.

Blagojevich's lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky, insisted the actions that resulted in the former governor's conviction and incarceration were all legal. Blagojevich, he added, is "not the evil man, the boogeyman ... our friends in the media have portrayed."

Asked why his client didn't attend the hearing, Sorosky said Blagoyevich "did not care to contest the proceedings."

According to Sorosky, Blagojevich believed he was obtaining campaign contributions so that he could continue fighting on behalf of the people of the state of Illinois. Heredia disagreed.

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"What he did was steal from everyone in this room. He stole from the people of Illinois," he said.

Heredia outlined Blagojevich's crimes including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when Obama became president, trying to extort the CEO of Edward Hospital in Naperville, trying to shake down the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital in exchange for increased state funding for pediatric care for sick kids, and trying to bribe the owner of the former Maywood and Balmoral horse racing tracks in exchange for agreeing to sign a bill that benefitted horse racing at the expense of casinos.

"He's a former state's attorney sworn to execute the laws faithfully. He knew the right thing to do" and failed to do it, Heredia said.

"He had a selfish motive. He was looking for money and jobs for himself. ... He didn't care about the public or the system. All he cared about was himself," he said.

"Gov. Blagojevich was asked by people to do certain things. All the things he was asked to do were legal," Sorosky said after the hearing. "The mistake he may have made were people on his behalf asking for campaign contributions too close to the request."

Blagojevich was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1984. He was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 14 years. A federal appeals court upheld his conviction and sentence in 2017, but Trump commuted his sentence last week and Blagojevich flew home to Chicago, having served nearly eight years in federal prison.

Asked after the hearing about what his client might do next, Sorosky responded, "One never knows."

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