Blago's final moments as gov. include "mercy"

ABC7 reporter on phone with him as historic vote finished
January 29, 2009 6:16:09 PM PST
As Rod Blagojevich stands disgraced and accused of crimes himself, his final act as governor was to give two criminals a break.One of them is a wealthy, well-connected developer in Chicago. The other is a janitor.

Blagojevich's final actions clean the slate for two very different men.

Late Thursday, in the waning moments of his administration, Gov. Blagojevich pardoned Jimmy Beck, a former drug dealer and now a janitor. Mr. Beck worked at a homeless shelter that once employed the governor's wife, Patty.

Beck, a South Sider, was convicted of battery and drug violations in 2000.

The second cleaning of the slate was for a man named Fred Latsko, a wealthy Chicago real estate developer who was convicted in 1985 on deception and forgery charges.

Latsko was pardoned in 1989 by then-governor Jim Thompson. But Blagojevich Thursday expunged the record. That means the conviction will be completely removed from Latsko's record as if he never committed the crimes.

The 43-year-old Latsko is a well known Chicago businessman and socialite and frequently seen at highbrow social events.

There are reports Mr. Latsko bought an Indiana farm owned by TV star Oprah Winfrey.

Latsko was one of Oprah Winfrey's guests at her fundraiser for Barack Obama at her California mansion in 2007.

It appears that with these two final actions Mr. Blagojevich circumvented the normal method of reviewing recommendations by the state prisoner review board.

Despite the unusual, last-minute move by the governor, he apparently acted legally.

Oddly enough, the I-Team did not find any campaign contributions from Latsko, or two of his companies, to Rod Blagojevich. Latsko did, however, make sizable contributions to two Blagojevich rivals. In 2006 he gave more than $7,000 to Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican candidate who last ran against Blagojevich, and in 2007 he contributed $14,300 in food and an event venue for a Lisa Madigan fundraiser.

Latsko's largest political donation was Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, $25,000 in 2006.

The I-Team contacted the former governor's former spokesman Lucio Gurerro who said he had no information about the pardon and expungements. Lucio says he plans to show up for work Friday but says that Governor Patrick Quinn already has a spokesperson and said "I am not sure where I will end up."

Blagojevich says he got bad news by phone

The governor had returned from Springfield to his West Ravenswood home after speaking to the Senate Thursday morning. He said that he learned by phone about the unanimous votes by the Senate to strip him of his elected position and prevent him from ever running for political office in the state.

As the Senate votes concluded, ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie telephoned the governor at his Sunnyside Ave. home.

Blagojevich answered the phone "Hey" after clicking over from call waiting.

"Chuck Goudie from ABC 7 calling," the governor was told.

"Hey Chuck, how ya doin'," stated the ex-governor.

Goudie asked, "How are you doing governor?"

After a brief pause, Mr. Blagojevich replied, "I'll have to call you back, I'm on the other line."

Goudie told the governor he wanted to put him on the air to talk about what happened and with that Mr. Blagojevich clicked back over to his other call.