Politics

Blagojevich sentenced to 14 years behind bars

Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich quoted a poem by English poet Rudyard Kipling after learning his sentence of 14 years in federal prison. He  told reporters this is a time to be strong. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich didnt answer reporters questions as he arrived home after learning his sentence.

After learning he would spend the next 14 years in prison, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich said, ''This is a time to be strong.''

Judge James Zagel sentenced Blagojevich to 168 months in prison on Wednesday afternoon. Blagojevich was hunched over in his seat, listening intently as Judge James Zagel handed down the 14-year prison sentence Wednesday. He put his arm around his wife, Patti, and told her "everything will be OK" as she cried.

Blagojevich will surrender to officials on February 16, 2012.

Blagojevich has to pay an assessment of $1,800 by Friday. He was also fined $20,000, which his financially strapped family may have trouble paying. Their Ravenswood Manor home is up for sale.

Blagojevich speaks to media, quotes Kipling on adversity

On their way out of the Federal Dirksen Building, Blagojevich -- with Patti by his side -- quoted the English poet Rudyard Kipling, saying "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same."

"This is a time to be strong, this is a time to fight through adversity," Blagojevich said.

Blagojevich said he needs to be strong for his children, Annie, 8, and Amy, 15. He said he and Patti were headed home to "our babies, to explain to them what this means, where we're going from here. We're going to keep fighting on through this adversity," Blagojevich said.

U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald: Blagojevich sentence sends message

U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald said Blagojevich's 14-year sentence sends a message to public officials who are thinking about being corrupt.

"Sends a strong message that the public has had enough and the judges have had enough. This needs to stop. To put it very simply, we do not want to be back here again," Fitzgerald said of Illinois' history of political corruption. "Public officials who would think about being corrupt, who would think about people paying them for things, should understand that the public will come forward."

"The harshest consequences are for their families," Fitzgerald said when asked about Blagojevich's daughters, Amy and Annie.

Judge Zagel: Blagojevich 'never asked whether a plan was legal'

Prosecutors had asked for 15 to 20 years in prison while the defense made a plea for a more lenient sentence. Judge Zagel had federal guidelines to follow, but the exact length of the sentence was up to his discretion.

"The vast majority of the facts are not disputed. It is difficult to dispute what is on the recordings," Judge Zagel said of the FBI-tape recorded conversations of Blagojevich, which were played during the trials. "He never asked whether a plan was legal."

Judge Zagel said he accepted Blagojevich's apology and believes he had "true concern" for the welfare of Illinois children.

"Few criminals are all bad. In criminal court the judgments are made on criminal acts," Judge Zagel said. "The governor's good works don't off set the governor's conduct."

Judge Zagel went on to say to Blagojevich, "Your personality is not suited for public office."

"When the governor goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired," said Zagel.

Prisoners sentenced to more than 10 years are often sent to a minimum or medium security prison within 500 miles of the inmate's home. Blagojevich's attorneys are expected to ask for a prison work camp.

Blagojevich was convicted on 18 charges of corruption, including trying to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by U.S. President Barack Obama, in two separate trials. At his first trial, he was found guilty on one count -- providing false statements. Jurors were unable to agree on the 23 other counts. In his second corruption trial, he was found guilty on 17 of 20 counts. The jury found him not guilty on one count and was hung on two others.

Ex Gov. Blagojevich: I made 'terrible mistakes'

Earlier Wednesday, Rod Blagojevich asked the judge for "mercy" and said he is "incredibly sorry."

Showing remorse for the first time, a humbled Blagojevich told Judge James Zagel he made "terrible mistakes."

"I am responsible for this. I'm not blaming anybody. I should have known better. I am incredibly sorry," Blagojevich said.

Blagojevich said there is a line between politics and horse trading.

"I thought they were permissible, and I was mistaken," Blagojevich said. "I never set out to break the law, I never set out to cross lines."

Blagojevich stopped short of admitting any guilt, instead saying he will take responsibility for the jury's decision to convict him. He said, "I'm here convicted of crimes, the jury decided that I was guilty, and I am accepting of it, I acknowledge it, and of course I am unbelievably sorry for it."

From his arrest on, Blagojevich often turned to the media, participating in reality TV shows and making the talk show circuit. He apologized for trying the case in the media, saying, "I should have known better."

In his final words to Judge Zagel at the hearing, Blagojevich said, "I would hope you can find some mercy. I appreciate this opportunity."

Prosecutors ask for 15, 20 year sentence

Before Blagojevich spoke, prosecutor Reid Schar reiterated Wednesday that the government wanted a 15- to 20-year sentence for Blagojevich's corruption convictions. He outlined the reasons behind the government's position again.

"The defendant was corrupt, he was corrupt the day he took the oath of office, and he was corrupt the day he was arrested," Schar said.

"It wasn't murky," Schar told the judge about Blagojevich's involvement. "He knew from a very early date exactly what he could do to help the people of Illinois and he didn't do it. Instead, what he did was first to personal benefits, jobs, millions of dollars, and things for him in relation to the Senate seat."

Blagojevich mum on morning of sentencing

After his statement followign his sentencing, the talkative Blagojevich did not speak to the media for the second day in a row, a diversion from his usually engaging personality.

Well wishers greeted Blagojevich as he returned to his Ravenswood Manor home after the sentencing. One woman, who identified herself as a cancer survivor, tearfully thanked the former governor and told him she supported his family. Blagojevich did not answer reporters' questions before entering the home. Earlier, he said little more than "morning" to the throng of journalists outside the home as he left for court with his wife, Patti.

Almost three years ago, Blagojevich was arrested and charged with corruption on December 9, 2008.

Officials react to Blagojevich sentence

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois issued a statement that said, "Judge Zagel's sentence is a clear warning to all elected officials that public corruption of any form will not be tolerated."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also issued a statement saying, "Blagojevich refused to govern responsibly and, instead, put Illinois up for sale. He tarnished the state's reputation nationally and internationally, and he destroyed the public's trust in government. May today's sentence put an end to corruption in the Illinois' governor's office."

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