Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on Thursday, becoming the fourth Illinois governor in recent years to be sent to prison.
Blagojevich, who will turn 55 on Saturday, was uncharacteristically contrite at his sentencing in Chicago, according to an account in The New York Times. “I have nobody to blame but myself for my stupidity and actions, words, things that I did, that I thought I could do,” he said.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, was charged just after Barack Obama, then a U.S. senator from Illinois, was elected president in 2008. He faced a variety of charges that he basically tried to sell the powers of his office to the highest bidder. Most sensationally, he was accused of trying to peddle the Senate seat Obama vacated when he went to the White House.
Blagojevich was sentenced by U.S. Judge James Zagel of the Northern District of Illinois, who imposed a punishment just under the range prosecutors had sought, according to The Times. Since there is no parole in the federal prison system, Blagojevich can expect to serve just under 12 years with time off for good behavior.
Although Blagojevich had been outspoken in the past about his innocence, he was remorseful in court, The Times reported. “I accept the peoples’ verdict, Judge, they found me guilty,” he said adding later, “All I can say is I never wanted to hurt anyone.”
The ex-governor’s contrition was in sharp contrast to the defiance he displayed throughout his case, which included impeachment in the Illinois legislature and two criminal trials, the first ending in a hung jury on nearly all counts and the second in conviction last June (see our report) in a big victory for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
Blagojevich’s predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, is currently serving six and a half years in federal prison for corruption. Ryan’s troubles enabled Blagojevich to run as a reform candidate.