Today in History: Donald Trump commutes sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Today is Sunday, Feb. 18, the 49th day of 2024. There are 317 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Feb. 18, 2020, President Donald Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for political corruption; Blagojevich left prison hours later and returned home to Chicago. (Trump also issued pardons or clemency to former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, financier Michael Milken and a long list of others.)

Related: Rod Blagojevich’s rise and fall and presidential commutation, a Chicago story

On this date:

In 1564, Michelangelo died in Rome.

In 1885, Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published in the U.S. for the first time (after being published in Britain and Canada).

In 1970, the “Chicago Seven” defendants were found not guilty of conspiring to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic national convention; five were convicted of violating the Anti-Riot Act of 1968 (those convictions were later reversed).

In 1983, 13 people were shot to death at a gambling club in Seattle’s Chinatown in what became known as the Wah Mee Massacre. (Two men were convicted of the killings and were sentenced to life in prison; a third was found guilty of robbery and assault.)

In 1984, Italy and the Vatican signed an accord under which Roman Catholicism ceased to be the state religion of Italy.

In 1988, Anthony M. Kennedy was sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1994, at the Winter Olympic Games in Norway, U.S. speedskater Dan Jansen finally won a gold medal, breaking the world record in the 1,000 meters.

In 2001, veteran FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen was arrested, accused of spying for Russia. (Hanssen later pleaded guilty to espionage and attempted espionage and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.)

In 2001, auto racing star Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in a crash at the Daytona 500; he was 49.

In 2003, an arson attack involving two South Korean subway trains in the city of Daegu claimed 198 lives. (The arsonist was sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2004.)

In 2012, a star-studded funeral service was held for pop singer Whitney Houston at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, a week after her death at age 48.

In 2017, Norma McCorvey, whose legal challenge under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision that legalized abortion but who later became an outspoken opponent of the procedure, died in Katy, Texas, at age 69.

In 2018, “Black Panther,” the Marvel superhero film from the Walt Disney Co., blew past expectations to take in $192 million during its debut weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters.

In 2023, former President Jimmy Carter entered home hospice care. The charity created by the 98-year-old former president said that after a series of short hospital stays, Carter “decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention.” (Carter remains alive a year later).

Today’s birthdays: Today’s Birthdays: Singer Yoko Ono is 91. Singer-songwriter Bobby Hart is 85. Singer Irma Thomas is 83. Singer Herman Santiago (Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers) is 83. Actor Jess Walton is 78. Singer Dennis DeYoung is 77. Actor Sinead Cusack is 76. Actor Cybill Shepherd is 74. Singer Randy Crawford is 72. Actor John Travolta is 70. Actor John Pankow is 69. Game show host Vanna White is 67. Actor Jayne Atkinson is 65. Actor Greta Scacchi is 64. Actor Matt Dillon is 60. Rock musician Tommy Scott (Space) is 60. Rapper Dr. Dre is 59. Actor Molly Ringwald is 56. Actor Sarah Brown is 49. Country musician Trevor Rosen (Old Dominion) is 49. Actor Ike Barinholtz is 47. Actor Kristoffer Polaha is 47. Singer-musician Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) is 47. Rock-singer musician Regina Spektor is 44. Opera singer Isabel Leonard is 42. Roots rock musician Zac Cockrell (Alabama Shakes) is 36. Actor Shane Lyons is 36. Actor Sarah Sutherland is 36. Actor Maiara Walsh is 36.

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