By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected flamboyant former two-term Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s appeal of convictions on corruption charges including attempted extortion from campaign contributors, wire fraud and other crimes.
The court left in place a July 2015 ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the bulk of the convictions. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year sentence.
Prosecutors said Blagojevich was at the center of a conspiracy to seek cash, campaign contributions and jobs for himself and others in exchange for state appointments, state business, legislation and pension fund investments.
Among those actions were attempts to leverage his authority as governor to appoint a U.S. senator when Barack Obama left his Senate seat representing Illinois after being elected president in 2008, prosecutors said.
Blagojevich was arrested in 2008 while still governor. He was impeached by the state’s General Assembly in 2009, becoming the first Illinois governor to be removed from office.
The 18 convictions, five of which were thrown out by the appeals court, came in two jury trials. Blagojevich began serving his federal prison sentence in 2012.
From the time of his arrest until his conviction, Blagojevich launched a national campaign to proclaim his innocence, appearing on television shows and even appearing on Donald Trump’s program “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Blagojevich was caught on court-approved wiretaps describing the Senate seat as something so valuable “you just don’t give it away for nothing.” Blagojevich added he might appoint himself if he could not get anything for the seat.
Blagojevich was known for his love of Elvis Presley, his tendency to quote poetry and his full head of carefully tended thick black hair. He was criticized while in office for rarely being in the state capital of Springfield, and letting legislation stall.
Blagojevich, elected in 2002, was in his second term when the state legislature kicked him out of office. He was the fourth former Illinois governor to be convicted of criminal charges since 1973.
A spokesman for Blagojevich and the former governor’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
The case is Blagojevich v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-664.