Your Illinois Governors: Felony Update (2011)

Update 12/7/2011: The judge has spoken: Blagojevich gets 14 years n prison.

With the news that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been convicted on 17 of 20 counts of corruption, it's time to freshen my list of recent Illinois governors whose legal trouble reached felony level. As I said back in 2003, when George Ryan, Blagojevich's predecessor, was indicted on federal corrupion charges, Prairie State governors have racked up quite a record over the past half-century:

William G. Stratton (in office 1953-61): Indicted (1964) for income-tax evasion (acquitted).
Otto Kerner (1961-68): Indicted (1971) and convicted (bribery and other charges).
Sam Shapiro (1968-69): Never charged with anything, but then he only had eight months in office.
Richard Ogilvie (1969-73): Clean, so far as we know. Probably why he only served one term.
Dan Walker (1973-77): Indicted (1987) in his post-politics career as an S&L thief. Pled guilty.
Jim Thompson (1977-91): His career was about indicting other people, for a change.
Jim Edgar (1991-99): No dirt so far.
George Ryan (1999-2003): Indicted (2003) and convicted on federal corruption charges.
Rod Blagojevich (2003-2009): Convicted for influence peddling, including an alleged conspiracy to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. (For a glimpse at government at its very best, it's worth reading the press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. It's a 12-page PDF. Among the highlights: "In a conversation … on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but "they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them." The full 78-page complaint, in PDF form, is available here: United States of America v. Rod R. Blagojevich and John Harris.)

Nine governors. Five indicted. Four convicted. One acquitted.

6 Replies to “Your Illinois Governors: Felony Update (2011)”

  1. Quite a record. Also, depending on how long it takes to sentence Rod, and allowing for the inevitable appeal and possible continuances, we could have two governors in prison at the same time. Ryan is due out in about two and a half years. I think.
    Sidenote, some mornings, many years after he was out of office, I would ride the Sheridan bus with Governor Stratton. I don’t know where he got on, but it was always before me at Belmont.
    Second sidenote, it was a cold and snowy winter night many years ago when I first discovered your blog upon doing a search for anyone who might be blogging about George Ryan’s indictment.

  2. Two governors in prison at the same time–that would be an accomplishment. At some point I should go back through the record and see how many other Illinois governors have run afoul of the criminal courts.
    Marie, I remember you happening upon the blog; you must have linked to the original George Ryan post. I was delighted to think someone out there had actually found that. That began my reading of Disarranging Mine, too (one of my all-time favorite blog titles, btw).

  3. We here in Louisiana had two gubernatorial candidates from the same election in prison at the same time. Edwin Edwards defeated David Duke in the 1991 runoff for Governor. They were both in prison in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Duke served 15 months. Edwards served almost 10 years. Not a particularly proud moment for Louisiana politics.

  4. Rob, I’ve been thinking that Louisiana would be one state that could give Illinois a run for its money in the Felonious Governor Sweepstakes. Other states seem to merely disgrace their governors–Spitzer, Sanford, Schwarzenegger all spring to mind–not convict them. Though if memory serves some chief executives in Alabama and Arizona and Arkansas have had a spot of trouble with the law.

  5. I think Edwards is the only elected Governor to serve time. Our real specialty is corrupt insurance commissioners. I think we had a run of 3 or 4 in a row that hit the big house.

  6. I think Edwards is the only elected Governor to serve time. Our real specialty is corrupt insurance commissioners. I think we had a run of 3 or 4 in a row that hit the big house.

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