Rod Blagojevich prison sentence commuted: What's next for the former Illinois governor after clemency

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's prison sentence has been commuted by President Donald Trump. But what does that mean?

RELATED: Ex-Illinois governor gets prison break from Trump

ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer sat down discuss what lies in the former governor's future, including his immediate future. Does he just walk out of prison now, and come back to Chicago?

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Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's prison sentence has been commuted by President Donald Trump.



"Close to it," Soffer said. "There is some paperwork that has to be filled out, it's probably being filled out as we speak. It could be at most a matter of days, or it could be shorter."

While the path to freedom for someone with a commuted sentence is short, it is not the same as being pardoned. There are some important differences between the two kinds of clemency actions.

"It's a very important difference. Commutation means his sentence was cut short. He's free. A pardon would have meant his record was wiped clean," Soffer explained. "So because it's a commutation he remains a convicted felon. He wouldn't if it had been a pardon."

And Blagojevich's status as a convicted felon is what will have the greatest impact on his new life as a free man.

"There are limitations on what a convicted felon can do, and among them are typically running for office, voting, possession a firearm, and those limitations may apply to him," said Soffer.

Soffer said that in order for Blagojevich to vote or run for office again, he would have to seek relief from the state with government authorities. It is not an automatic process, and he will be released from prison with all the felony restrictions imposed on him.

"And in particular, holding office in Illinois, he may have some trouble there because of the impeachment proceedings against him," Soffer added.

Though Tuesday's announcement was dramatic, Soffer said he wasn't surprised by it.

"I wasn't shocked because, we have to remember, he served seven years. It's not like he just walked out of jail. There was a lot of disagreement about the length of his sentence, and it's not a pardon, it's a commutation," he said. "A pardon would have surprised me."
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