Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison and fined $20,000 for what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald famously referred to as a criminal corruption crime spree at the time of Blagojevich’s arrest three years ago.
Patti Blagojevich buried her head in her husband’s shoulder and the two embraced. He pulled back to brush tears off her cheek and then rubbed her shoulders.
Blagojevich will have to serve just under 12 years under federal rules that say defendants must complete 85 percent of their sentence. Blagojevich doesn’t have to report to federal prison until Feb. 16.
The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge James Zagel is more than double the prison term given in 2006 to former Gov. George Ryan, who is serving a 6 ½-year sentence in a federal prison in Terre Haute.
Before pronouncing sentence, Zagel told Blagojevich he had abused the public trust. “When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired,” Zagel said.
The judge said Blagojevich was clearly responsible for his crimes, not his underlings as the former governor had argued. “He marched them and ruined a few of their careers and more than that in the process,” the judge said.
While Zagel said he was sympathetic to how the sentence would affect Blagojevich’s daughters, he asked, “Why did devotion as a father not deter him? … Now it is too late.”
Zagel announced the sentence after a somber Blagojevich, his voice cracking with emotion, pleaded for a lighter sentence with a round of apologies to the judge, to the jurors who convicted him, to the public and to his family.
“I’m here convicted of crimes. The jury decided I was guilty. I am accepting of it. I acknowledge it, and I of course am unbelievably sorry for it,” Blagojevich said.
“I want to apologize to the people of Illinois, to the court, for the mistakes I have made…I never set out to break the law. I never set out to cross lines.”
Blagojevich said he thought he was acting in accord with the law when he did things for which he later was convicted.
“I was mistaken. The jury convicted me and they convicted me because those were my actions…I am responsible. I caused it all. I’m not blaming anybody. I was the governor, and I should have known better. And I am just so incredibly sorry.”