Blagojevich rips into Pritzker for urging state senator to resign his seat

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is blasting Gov. JB Pritzker after the incumbent urged a state senator to resign his seat for allegedly taking a bribe.

Earlier this week, State Sen. Emil Jones III was hit with federal bribery charges as part of a yearslong investigation involving the politically connected red-light camera company SafeSpeed LLC.

Jones, son of former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., is also charged with lying to the FBI.

Blagojevich says Pritzker urging Jones to resign is "hypocrisy."

"Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? Gov. Pritzker should get off his high horse and practice what he preaches," Blagojevich said in a statement.


The charges against the younger Jones point to a Senate bill filed in February 2019 requiring a statewide study of automated traffic law enforcement systems, including red-light cameras.

The feds say Jones agreed that, in exchange for benefits from an individual with an interest in SafeSpeed, he would work to limit such studies to systems used in Chicago, "thereby excluding from study and recommendations automated traffic enforcement systems utilized in numerous other municipalities" served by SafeSpeed.

State Sen. Emil Jones III

Jones also allegedly told the individual with an interest in SafeSpeed that he would protect it from legislation in the General Assembly in exchange for $5,000 and a job for an unnamed associate.

The state senator allegedly lied to the FBI about his role in the scheme Sept. 24, 2019.

"Maybe Gov. Pritzker should resign too," Blagojevich continues in his statement. "After all, what do you call the $10 million he gave to indicted House Speaker Mike Madigan in order to get Madigan to pass his legislation? Or what about Gov. Pritzker's scam to use toilets as a way to avoid paying the more than $300,000 in property taxes he owed?"

The feds filed their charges against Jones in a document known as an information, which typically signals a defendant’s intention to plead guilty. The Chicago Democrat is now the latest in a long line of Illinois politicians to face charges since the feds’ probe of SafeSpeed-related deals surfaced in 2019.

SafeSpeed has not been charged with wrongdoing.

"If he were to apply the same standard to himself that he's applying to Sen Jones, then Gov. Pritzker should take the lead and resign first," Blagojevich said.

"If hypocrisy were a crime, JB would end up doing more time in prison than me," the former governor said.

A day after federal prosecutors accused Jones of taking $5,000 to protect SafeSpeed from unfavorable legislation, state Senate President Don Harmon "asked for and received" the senator’s resignation as chair of the Senate Licensed Activities Committee, according to a letter Harmon filed with the secretary of the Senate.

That position came along with an $11,098 annual stipend for Jones on top of his annual salary, which amounted to $80,700 last year before taxes, according to the state comptroller’s office.

Jones also agreed to step down from his positions as vice chair of the Public Safety Committee — which handles red-light camera business — and Senate deputy majority leader. Those titles were unpaid.

"Sen. Jones is accused of accepting bribes. And Senator Hastings is accused of abusing women. They should answer the charges and have their day in court. But in the best interests of their constituents, these men must resign from their offices," Pritzker said in a statement. "Resigning only their leadership roles falls short of what the public should expect. I want to send a clear message to the people of Illinois: corruption and abuse have no place here."

Pritzker said Illinois residents deserve to have elected leaders who are focused on representing their needs, "not on holding office when facing serious and credible charges."

"Integrity is essential to public service, and corruption for personal gain and abuse in private or public is unacceptable," the governor said in the statement.

Despite Pritzker's and Republican calls to relinquish his Senate seat altogether, Jones has given no indication he’s going anywhere.

The indicted senator’s father issued a statement Tuesday asserting the charges against his son "do not reflect the man he is," with the retired leader vowing "to fight with him and stand alongside him throughout this process."

Blagojevich concluded his state by saying, "By the way, when I was Governor, I broke no laws, crossed no lines, never took a penny - paid all of my property taxes and overpaid my federal taxes by $6,000!"

Blagojevich had served time in prison after being convicted of 18 felony corruption charges in 2010, including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by Barack Obama and trying to shake down a children's hospital.

His 14-year sentence was commuted by then-President Donald Trump in February 2020.

FOX 32 Chicago reached out to Gov. Pritzker for a response to Blagojevich's statement, and a spokesperson said they have no comment.

Jones is the ninth member of the Illinois General Assembly to be hit by federal charges in the last several years.

Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.