After admitting to a judge that he had made “terrible mistakes” and that he was “incredibly sorry,” former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison on corruption charges stemming from his conviction for trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, lying to federal agents and illegal attempts to gain campaign money, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.
“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,” said Blagojevich, who was elected twice by Illinois voters, during his sentencing hearing.
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U.S. District Judge James Zagel handed the sentence down to the sullen, remorseful Blagojevich on the second day of the trial. Zagel also acknowledged that the former governor — who had taken the place of another governor, George Ryan, who was also jailed for corruption — and even gave him credit for his admittance. But also made clear why he was imposing the sentence. “When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily or quickly repaired,” Zagel said. “You did that damage.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar, who argued early Wednesday for a sentence of 15 to 20 years, didn’t buy Blagojevich’s emotional plea and echoed Zagel. “He is incredibly manipulative and he knows how to be,” Schar told the judge. “To his credit he’s clever about it.”
“Judge, the defendant is corrupt, he was corrupt the day he took office, he was corrupt until the day he was arrested,” Schar said. “Judge, the people have had enough. They have had enough of this defendant. They have had enough of people like him.”
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The drawn-out legal ordeal began when then-Senator Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat became available as a result of his 2008 presidential win. Blagojevich was recorded saying Obama’s seat was “f—ing golden” and that it wouldn’t go “for f—ing nothing.”
Blagojevich was convicted on 18 corruption charges and will have to serve nearly 12 years of the sentence, thanks to Zagel’s lenience. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he will be forced to report to prison by Feb. 15. Tony Rezko, an ex-Blagojevich fundraiser was recently sentenced to 10 1/2 years behind bars.
As the sentence was passed down, Blagojevich declared: “I am responsible. I caused it all. I’m not blaming anybody. I was the governor, and I should have known better.”