Former disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to sell President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat to raise campaign cash or land a high-paying job.
Judge James Zagel gave Blagojevich some credit for taking responsibility for his actions, which the former governor did in an address to the court earlier in the day, but also said that that didn’t mitigate his crimes. Zagel said Blagojevich did some good things for people as governor, but was more concerned about using his powers for himself.
“When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired,” Zagel said.
The sentence also includes a $20,000 fine.
Blagojevich spoke briefly to reporters, quoting from the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”
“This is a time for me to be strong for my children and for (wife) Patti … a time for Patti and me to explain to our kids what this means and where we go from here… See you soon,” he said. He then left without answering any questions.
The twice-elected Democrat received by far the harshest sentence among the four Illinois governors sent to prison in the last four decades. He is the second in a row to go to prison; his Republican predecessor, George Ryan, currently is serving 6 1/2 years. The other two got three years or less.
The 54-year-old was not taken immediately into custody. His surrender date was set for Feb. 16. In white-collar cases, convicted felons are usually given at least a few weeks to report to prison while federal authorities select a suitable facility. Blagojevich is expected to appeal his conviction, but it is unlikely to affect when he reports to prison.
It took two trials for prosecutors to convict Blagojevich on sweeping corruption charges. His first ended deadlocked with jurors agreeing on just one of 24 counts, that Blagojevich lied to the FBI. Jurors at his retrial convicted him on 17 of 20 counts, including bribery and attempted extortion.
FBI wiretap evidence proved decisive. In the most notorious recording, Blagojevich is heard saying that his chance to name someone to Obama’s seat was “f—ing golden” and he wouldn’t let it go “for f—ing nothing.”