Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich leaves his home to go to his sentencing hearing December 7, 2011 in Chicago. Federal prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison for Blagojevich after he was found guilty of 17 public corruption charges.
Rod Blagojevich showed nearly no emotion when Judge James Zagel handed down a 14-year sentence in federal prison for the convicted former governor.
Blagojevich's wife, Patti, held her hand to her mouth, went to her husband and fell into his arms. After court, she buried her head into his chest.
But the couple still has the holidays. Blagojevich surrenders to prison on Feb. 16, 2012. At that time he'll begin serving at least 11.9 years, or 85 percent of the full sentence, as required by federal law.
Next up his lawyers will ask Judge Zagel to designate a prison facility, likely someplace in the Midwest, says Kent College Law professor Richard Kling. Because it was a sentence of more than 10 years, he'll be classified in a low-security prison with double-fence razor wire.
Blagojevich spent 18 minutes on the stand Wednesday accepting his verdict and fate, apologizing to his family and the people of Illinois. He asked Zagel to "please take mercy."
"I take responsibility," Blagojevich says. "I was the governor and I should have known better."
The judge gave him little leeway, telling him "abuse of the office of governor is more damaging than the abuse of any office in the United States except for president."
Zagel handed down 14 years and imposed a $20,000 fine and two years of supervised release after incarceration. He said he cut Blagojevich some slack because of the former governor's admittance of guilt, but the guilt came too late.
"I cannot comprehend that even if you are guilty," Zagel said. "You don't think you caused harm to Illinois."
The sentence is the longest to be imposed on a former governor in the Northern District.
Prosecutors, who requested 15-20 years, said it sends a message.
“Blagojevich betrayed the trust and faith that Illinois voters placed in him, feeding great public frustration, cynicism and disengagement among citizens,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. "People have the right to expect that their elected leaders will honor the oath they swear to, and this sentence shows that the justice system will stand up to protect their expectations."
“This sentence sends a clear message that public officials cannot engage in corruption for personal benefit in exchange for political favors," said James Vanderberg, special agent-in-charge of the Chicago Regional Office of Inspector General in a statement.
"For Patti and I and especially me," Blagojevich said, "this is a time to be strong, this is a time to fight through adversity, this is a time for me to be strong for my children, be strong for Patti, and this is also a time for Patti and me to get home."
|Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich quotes Rudyard Kipling in brief remarks to the media after he's sentenced to 14 years on corruption charges.|
|An upset Sheldon Sorosky said little to reporters as he leaves the Dirken Federal Building, but said he'll fight Rod Blagojevich's sentence in the appellate court.|
|U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald reacts to Rod Blagojevich's 14-year sentence and says he hopes it sends a message to public servants and the populace.|
|Gov. Pat Quinn -- Rod Blagojevich's former running mate -- assures the public that he believes in ethics and integrity, and touts the reforms he's enacted since assuming office.|
|Illinois Comptroller and former rival Judy Baar Topinka says Judge James Zagel's 14-year sentence for Rod Blagojevich is a fair one for which she feels no remorse.|
|Attorney Sam Adam Jr. and his father represented Rod Blagojevich in his first trial and remain dedicated to the former governor.|
|Connie Wilson says the 14-year sentence Rod Blagojevich received was more than she expected and said it sends a definite message.|
|Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass discusses Rod Blagojevich's 14-year sentence and says the public bears some of the responsibility of the corruption.|
|Kent School of Law professor Richard Kling discusses where Rod Blagojevich might serve his sentence and what life for the former governor might be like.|
|Kent School of Law professor Richard Kling discusses the message Judge James Zagel was sending in the courtroom comments he made before handing down a 14 year sentence to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.|
|Attorney Tom Glasgow says Blagojevich's sentence is a "sad commentary" of Illinois politics.|