Milorad “Rod” Blagojevich, former Illinois Governor and Democrat, was slapped with an unprecedented 14-year jail sentence in a federal corruption case after a jury found him guilty on 17 out of 20 charges earlier this year. He was convicted of wire fraud, attempted extortion, soliciting bribes, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes.
Mr. Blagojevich’s time in prison, which will be a minimum of 12 years before he can be considered for parole, will see him reach the age of at least 67 before he is a free man. He has been asked to report to federal authorities on February 16.
Speaking after his sentencing U.S. District Judge James Zagel was said to have made it clear that “the former Governor’s position and the relentless history of corruption in Illinois” required a harsh message. “When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired,” Judge Zagel said to Mr. Blagojevich, adding, “You did that damage.”
Possibly sensing that a tough sentence was coming his way Mr. Blagojevich had struck a penitent tone during the final hearings in court, saying, “I'm here convicted of crimes. The jury decided I was guilty. I am accepting of it. I acknowledge it and I, of course, am unbelievably sorry for it.”
Continuing the dubious tradition of Illinois Governors being sent to jail for wrongdoing – Mr. Blagojevich is the fourth since the 1970s – his arrest in December 2008 and two subsequent trials in 2010 and 2011 transfixed the nation.
Disbelief at the scope and scale of his crimes was centred on the disgraced Governor’s blatant attempt to solicit bribes for the “sale” of the Senate seat that then-Senator Barack Obama vacated when he left for the White House.
For months before his arrest police investigators had tapped his phones and, according to reports, “recorded profanity-laced conversations between the Governor and his advisers about their alleged plans to profit from his authority.”
While a first trial in the federal case against him saw him escape with a guilty verdict on only one of 24 charges, it was ruled a mistrial. A retrial in case was conducted in June this year, and on that occasion the jury found Mr. Blagojevich guilty of 11 counts related to the Senate seat and 6 counts related to fundraising extortion of a hospital executive.
After the first trial Mr. Blagojevich claimed victory saying, “This jury shows you that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me... They could not prove I did anything wrong – except for one nebulous charge from five years ago.”
Famed for his media showmanship Mr. Blagojevich will however face a different, bleaker reality in February.
While authorities were said to not yet have decided on where Mr. Blagojevich will serve time, reports said that he would certainly be “largely cut off from the outside world... will have to share a cell with other inmates and work a menial job, possibly scrubbing toilets or mopping floors, at just 12 cents an hour.”