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Blago Neighbors Would Welcome Him Home, Even If He Brings Media Circus

 A familiar scene plays out in front of the Blagojevich Ravenswood Manor home, as Patti Blagojevich (right) faces a wall of media.
A familiar scene plays out in front of the Blagojevich Ravenswood Manor home, as Patti Blagojevich (right) faces a wall of media.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

RAVENSWOOD MANOR — It's been three years since Rod Blagojevich last set foot in Ravenswood Manor, but he can still draw a crowd to the sleepy neighborhood.

On Tuesday an appellate court overturned a number of convictions that led to a 14-year federal prison sentence for the former Illinois governor. A hastily organized news conference at the Blagojevich home in the 2900 block of West Sunnyside Avenue spelled a return of the media circus that plagued the area throughout the ex-governor's two corruption trials.

Neighbors said the descending horde — a full dozen news vans and twice as many reporters — was "much more low key" than in 2011 but was still over the top.

"I feel like he killed a million people," said Margaret Jafernik, pointing to the media response. "If someone came to this neighborhood, what would they think?"

Though Blagojevich has often brought unwanted attention to the Manor, neighbors said they would welcome him back, sooner than later, should his sentence be reduced.

"'Glad to have you home,' that's the first thing I'd say," said longtime resident Bob Schmidt, out walking his dog Tuesday.

"He's been in there long enough," Schmidt added. "People done a whole lot worse things and got a whole lot less time."

It was a statement echoed, to a person, by all of the neighbors who spoke to DNAinfo.

"I think they overdid it," Bill Hudson, who lives around the corner on Richmond, said of the 14-year sentence. "Jesse Jackson Jr. gets [2½] years, and he [Jackson] took money."

Jafernik said home confinement or ankle-bracelet monitoring would be punishment enough.

"Not 14 years you go to jail, that's crazy. Let him stay with the children," she said, referring to the two Blagojevich daughters Amy, 18, and Annie, 12. "He didn't kill nobody. He is not dangerous for the public."

Stephanie Herrnreiter, a lifelong Manor resident, said she was more concerned about nearby shootings and break-ins than whether Blago's return would clog the neighborhood with news crews.

"If anything, we were safer when he was here," Herrnreiter said.

The Blagojevich legal team is still digesting the appellate ruling and what it might mean in terms of the potential for a reduced sentence — a far cry from the complete overturning of all convictions they'd been aiming for.

"It's not justice," said the governor's appeals attorney, Leonard Goodman. "We waited a year and a half for this decision, and it doesn't address the most serious issues of the trial."

Patti Blagojevich said she had spoken briefly with her husband and that the family was "very disappointed" with the court's decision.

"Getting him home with us and with his girls" was her foremost goal, she said. As she referenced milestones her husband had missed over the past three years — Amy's high school graduation and prom — the teen, who had been standing at her mother's side, broke down in tears.

Still Patti Blagojevich said she had no regrets that her husband had chosen to fight the corruption charges rather than accept a plea deal that might have led to a lesser sentence.

"We would rather see him there [prison] with his head held high than to see him home in disgrace," she said.

The estimated release date for Rod Blagojevich, if his sentence remains unchanged, would be 2024, at which time he would be 67 years old.

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