Blagojevich gets 14 years in prison for corruption
(AP) - Rod Blagojevich, the ousted Illinois governorwhose three-year battle against criminal charges became a nationalspectacle, was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday, one ofthe stiffest penalties imposed for corruption in a state with ahistory of crooked politics.
Blagojevich's 18 convictions included allegations of trying toleverage his power to appoint someone to President Barack Obama'svacated Senate seat to raise campaign cash or land a high-payingjob.
Judge James Zagel gave Blagojevich some credit for takingresponsibility for his actions - which the former governor did inan address to the court earlier in the day - but said that didn'tmitigate his crimes. Zagel also said Blagojevich did some goodthings for people as governor, but was more concerned about usinghis powers for himself.
"When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinoisis torn and disfigured and not easily repaired," Zagel said.
As the judge announced the sentence, Blagojevich hunched forwardand his face appeared frozen. Minutes later, his wife, PattiBlagojevich, stood up and fell into her husband's arms. He pulledback to brush tears off her cheek and then rubbed her shoulders.
The twice-elected Democrat is now the second former Illinoisgovernor in a row to be sentenced to prison, and the fourthIllinois governor in the last four decades. His Republicanpredecessor, George Ryan, currently is serving a sentence of 6 1/2years, also for corruption.
Blagojevich, in a last plea for mercy, tried something he neverhad before: an apology. After years of insisting he was innocent,he told the judge he'd made "terrible mistakes" and acknowledgedthat he broke the law.
"I'm here convicted of crimes ... ," Blagojevich said, "and Iam accepting of it, I acknowledge it and I of course amunbelievably sorry for it."
But Zagel gave him little leeway, telling him that he gave himcredit for taking responsibility but that his apology didn'tmitigate his crimes.
"Whatever good things you did for people as governor, and youdid some, I am more concerned with the occasions when you wanted touse your powers when you wanted to do things that were only goodfor yourself."
Blagojevich's attorneys had said the sentence of 15 to 20 yearsprosecutors wanted was too harsh. The defense also presentedheartfelt appeals from Blagojevich's family, including letters fromhis wife Patti and one of his two daughters that pleaded for mercy.
But the judge made it clear early in the hearing that hebelieved that Blagojevich had lied on the witness stand when hetried to explain his scheming for the Senate seat, and he did notbelieve defense suggestions that the former governor was duped byhis advisers.
The 54-year-old was not taken immediately into custody. Inwhite-collar cases, convicted felons are usually given at least afew weeks to report to prison while federal authorities select asuitable facility. Blagojevich is expected to appeal hisconviction, but it is unlikely to affect when he reports to prison.