CHICAGO — Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, emerged from his brick bungalow on Chicago’s North Side into shivering cold air on Wednesday, coatless, tieless and remorseless. Mr. Blagojevich, who had been in a Colorado prison until a day earlier, denounced a broken justice system, spoke of his “exile” behind bars, thanked President Trump for commuting his sentence and insisted that he had done nothing illegal.
“It’s been a long, long journey. I’m bruised, I’m battered and I’m bloody,” Mr. Blagojevich said, dabbing his chin with a handkerchief. He explained that he was still getting used to using a regular razor — unavailable in prison — and had nicked himself while shaving.
In a surprise move, Mr. Blagojevich, 63, was released from prison on Tuesday after Mr. Trump commuted his 14-year sentence criminal sentence for corruption after eight years. Mr. Blagojevich, then the Democratic governor, was arrested in 2008 when prosecutors said he had schemed to sell a Senate seat being vacated by Barack Obama, who had newly been elected president. Mr. Blagojevich was swiftly impeached, unanimously removed from office, convicted and cast out by his own party.
On Wednesday, there was a sense that Mr. Blagojevich — Blago, to Illinoisans — was picking up where he had left off.
In 2012, he departed for federal prison from precisely this spot, his family home, surrounded by a frenzy of television cameras. The spectacle returned on Wednesday, as a helicopter buzzed overhead. News reporters bundled in parkas to chronicle his return, drawing stares from neighbors and dog-walkers in what is usually a quiet neighborhood. Someone waved a cutout photo of Mr. Blagojevich’s smiling face, attached to a broomstick, high in the air.
True to form, Mr. Blagojevich emerged from his house later than promised (“We’re back on Blago time,” one reporter said), his dark brown hair turned silvery in prison. He spoke expansively for close to 20 minutes without notes, and with his wife, Patti, at his side.
He quoted the Bible and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He recited poetry. He denounced racism. He dropped a few Spanish words. He described himself as a “freed political prisoner” and said he hoped “to turn an injustice into a justice.”
And he spoke of his eight years in prison, the solitary nights behind “the iron door that can shut you in, a small window with bars on it, and a bunk bed.”
“I slept on the top bunk,” Mr. Blagojevich recalled. “Often late at night I would look through that window and past those bars out into the night sky and I’d think of home, I’d think of my children, I’d think of Patti. Sometimes I could almost feel her near me,” he said.
“Trump! Yeah, Trump! Four more years!” a man in the crowd shouted.
“Just ignore him,” Ms. Blagojevich murmured through her teeth.
“I would say to myself, ‘One day, one day I’ll make it back to you, and hold your hand, sweetheart,’” Mr. Blagojevich said. “‘And I will remember what a gracious thing it’s been to walk through life with you. Thank you for waiting.’” He nuzzled her cheek.
“You’re bleeding,” she said, and he obligingly dabbed his chin again.
Ms. Blagojevich has been one of her husband’s most vocal defenders, making appearances on Fox News where she pleaded for mercy and appealed to Mr. Trump to commute Mr. Blagojevich’s sentence.
It is unclear what Mr. Blagojevich’s next act will be.
He offered one clue while flying back to Chicago on Tuesday, on a commercial flight from Denver, near the prison, to O’Hare International Airport. Chuck Goudie, an ABC7 reporter, sat next to Mr. Blagojevich on the plane; during the flight, Mr. Blagojevich said that he needed to get a job.
Among the neighbors and onlookers who had gathered outside Mr. Blagojevich’s home, Ziff Sistrunk, 63, a supporter from the South Side, hung a sign from the Blagojevich front steps and said that he hoped that Mr. Blagojevich would spend his post-prison life working on behalf of ex-felons.
Mr. Sistrunk said that he wrote Mr. Blagojevich letters early in his prison term (Mr. Blagojevich did not answer them) and sent him money, believing that he had been unfairly convicted for using language that what was just the typical blustery talk of politicians.
“Everybody ran away from him like he had the plague, but I stuck with him for eight years,” he said. “Now that he’s out, I hope he humbles himself.”
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