ABC News’ Matt Jaffe reports: On the same day that he proclaimed his innocence for the first time after being arrested 10 days ago, embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich pardoned 22 people Friday evening.
"I am pleased to restore the rights of citizenship to these individuals," Blagojevich said in a statement. "After looking at each one of these cases, it was clear that this was the right thing to do."
Only hours earlier, the governor had spoken out for the first time since his arrest on charges that included attempting to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.
"I am here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way," Blagojevich said at a Chicago news conference this afternoon. "I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath."
The defiant lawmaker refused to bow to "false accusations" and "a political lynch mob" demanding his resignation. In the week and a half since he was charged by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzerald, Blagojevich has steadfastly continued to serve as governor, going in to work at his Chicago offices almost every day and signing bills on a regular basis.
The governor said today that he had done "nothing wrong" and he clearly believes the same is true for the 22 people pardoned Friday evening.
The 22 people pardoned are: Shantya Russell, Michael Gordon, Michael Tabler, Robert Eugene Smith, Lora Thomas, Constance Glass, Donald Kendall, Edward Lee Smith, Jackie Wayne Collins, Sylvia Johnson, Joel Naskiewicz, John Kidwell, Juan Linval, Katrina Raickett, Larry Pierson, Latasha Lofton, Jeffrey Nussbaum, Bret Lefever, Donald Mitchell, James Moreland, Alex May, and Marcus Lyons.