CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was on his way home to Chicago late Tuesday night, after President Donald Trump commuted his 14-year sentence.
President Trump noted as he announced the commutation that Blagojevich had already served eight years. He called the 14-year sentence “ridiculous.”READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Rounding Out The Warmest Weekend Of The Winter
Blagojevich maintained that he was never guilty of any crimes and that he was “persecuted and railroaded.”
Speaking to CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov at Denver International Airport Tuesday night, Blagojevich said: “I’m going to fight against the corrupt criminal justice system that all too often persecutes and prosecutes people who did nothing wrong, who over-sentence people, show no mercy, and who are in positions that have no accountability. They can do and say whatever they want.”
But as CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, at least one person who was close to Blagojevich’s case did not agree that releasing him was an act of justice.
“Justice would be he serves his full term,” said James Matsumoto, who was the jury foreman at Blagojevich’s first trial in 2010.
Matsumoto said Blagojevich deserved the full 14-year sentence.
“The only time he was remorseful at all was just before sentencing,” he said.
Matsumoto sat down with Molina on Tuesday to express his disappointment in the now-commuted sentence and the comments about its severity.
“If they sat through that courtroom and heard the evidence, they would know that he deserved it,” Matsumoto said.
Blagojevich’s first-trial defense attorney, Sam Adam Jr., expressed excitement about the commutation.
“It is just heartwarming to me to see a family put back together,” he said. “To see him back with his family does my heart good. I appreciate what the president did.”
Speaking to Molina via FaceTime, Adam responded to those critical of the message the commuted sentence sends about a political culture of corruption with.
“Is eight years enough to make the point, we’re tired of this as a community? We’re tired of this as a people?” he said. “I say it is, but I understand why others say it’s not.”READ MORE: MISSING: Khoshaba Dikyanos, 84, Last Seen In Lincoln Square
Meanwhile in Springfield Tuesday night, CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reported reaction to Blagojevich having his sentence commuted also continued to reverberate in the ornate halls of the state capital.
“I disagree with the president on this one,” said state House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Grand Wehrli (R-Naperville).
“I was disappointed,” said state Senate Assistant Majority Leader Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria).
They and many of their Colleagues expressed disappointment, because they say the former governor of Illinois failed to express remorse.
“If at any time during this whole ordeal, the former governor would’ve ever said, ‘I’m sorry to the folks of Illinois,’ I might be a little more sympathetic,” Koehler said.
And the lawmakers said in a state with a long and sordid history of political corruption, the governor must be held to a higher standard.
“I just think it’s particularly poor timing in Illinois for the president to commute a sentence for someone who is probably one of the most ethically challenged governors in modern history,” said Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon).
Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) was one of the 59 state senators who unanimously voted to convict and remove the governor from office 11 years ago.
When Puccinelli noted that President Trump had said eight years in prison was enough for Blagojevich, Collins said, “Consider the source of that statement.”
And although there are plenty of people who agree with the president who thought The 14 year sentence was unduly harsh, those people were not among the elected officials we caught up in the Illinois State Capitol rotunda.
“In this day of corruption in the state, we need to take a harder line on corruption and unethical behavior by elected officials and not shorten sentences,” Wehrli said.
Blagojevich was expected to touch down at O’Hare International Airport just before midnight Tuesday night.MORE NEWS: Chicago Speed Cameras To Start Issuing $35 Tickets To Drivers Going 6 MPH Over The Limit On Monday
CBS 2’s Tara Molina and Mike Puccinelli contributed to this report.