Chicago – Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois who tried to sell President Obama’s Senate seat, has waited three months to learn his fate after being convicted on multiple corruption charges. Now he will have to wait longer.
This week, Judge James Zagel of United States District Court indefinitely delayed Mr. Blagojevich’s sentencing, which had been set for Oct. 6. He offered no explanation. Representatives for Mr. Blagojevich could not be reached for comment.
One possible reason for the delay is that next week Judge Zagel is to begin overseeing the trial of a co-defendant in the sweeping federal investigation against Mr. Blagojevich and others. The co-defendant, the businessman William Cellini, who faces extortion charges, was a lobbyist and fund-raiser for the governor. In June, Mr. Blagojevich was convicted on 17 counts of wire fraud, attempted extortion, soliciting bribes, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes. Legal experts say he could be sentenced to decades in prison.
For now, Mr. Blagojevich is busy fending off a state agency that has moved to suspend his law license, beginning a process that could lead to disbarment. An Illinois Supreme Court petition filed by the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which regulates lawyers, accused the ex-governor in late August of “moral turpitude” and asked the court to prevent him from practicing law as he awaits his sentencing. Mr. Blagojevich’s legal team has until next month to convince the court that his license should not be suspended.
Mr. Blagojevich, a self-professed C student at Pepperdine University’s law school, became a lawyer in 1984 and practiced for more than a decade before taking an “inactive” status in 2000. He was elected governor of Illinois in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. He was arrested in late 2008.
If his license is suspended, Mr. Blagojevich will be unable to reactivate it until a disbarment investigation is completed. The loss of his license would eliminate an income option for the former governor, who has said he is short on cash and has appeared in commercials for pistachios to make money.
Still, aside from a short period in early 2010 when Mr. Blagojevich temporarily reactivated his lawyer status, he has not shown any intention of returning to the legal profession.
According to court documents, Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyer sent a letter to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission asking that his name be “withdrawn” as a licensed lawyer in Illinois. His request was rejected, and the agency sent him forms to file for disbarment, according to James J. Grogan, deputy administrator and chief counsel for the agency.
“There’s a protocol to follow,” Mr. Grogan said.
Disbarring himself would require Mr. Blagojevich to admit guilt before sentencing begins.
A felony conviction in Illinois does not result in an automatic disbarment, though it is common, Mr. Grogan said. His agency, however, cannot pursue legally disbarring Mr. Blagojevich until after he is sentenced and a full disbarment investigation is conducted.
“That could take years,” Mr. Grogan said.