Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced former governor of the US State of Illinois, reported at a Colorado prison on Thursday to begin a 14-year sentence for multiple convictions. He was convicted on corruption charges, including attempting to sell a Senate seat which was previously held by President Barack Obama.
Blagojevich will serve out his prison sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood, outside Denver, Colorado, as federal inmate 40892-424. Inmates at the facility include Jeff Skilling, Enron's former chief, who is serving a 24-year sentence for fraud.
"Saying goodbye is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I'm leaving with a heavy heart, a clear conscience, but I have high, high hopes for the future. Among the hopes is that you guys go home and our neighbors can get their neighborhood back. I'll see you guys when I see ya. I'll see you around," Blagojevich told reporters as he left his Ravenswood Manor home in Chicago.
In June 2011, a 12-member jury of 11 women and a man at the Federal Court in Chicago had found the 54-year-old two-term Democratic Governor guilty on 17 of the 20 charges pressed against him. He was also found guilty of forcing a children's hospital executive to pay $50,000 in campaign funds in return for increased state aid.
Blagojevich was subsequently handed a prison sentence of 14 years in December. In addition, Blagojevich was also ordered to pay $20,000 fine as part of his sentence.
The prosecution had earlier demanded a 20-year prison term for Blagojevich, arguing that the politician was aware that he was breaking the law with his actions. But the defense pleaded for a lighter sentence, pointing out that their client had already paid a high price for his actions, including financial ruin.
Ahead of the sentencing, Blagojevich told the court that he was "unbelievably sorry" for the "terrible mistakes" he had committed, insisting he believed while committing those actions that they were "permissible" and that he had "never set out to break the law."
Blagojevich's lawyers have indicated that they plan to appeal his sentence. Nevertheless, federal prison rules stipulates that an inmate should serve out 85% of his/her term before becoming eligible for early release.
Blagojevich was first elected Illinois Governor in 2002 and remained in office before being dumped by the State legislature following his arrest in December 2008 on graft charges.
As Governor, Blagojevich was entrusted with the task of finding a suitable replacement for the Senate seat vacated by Obama following his election as US President. Majority of the charges against him relate to attempts for awarding the seat in return for lucrative personal favors.
During the course of his trial, the prosecution produced hard evidence against Blagojevich including FBI phone taps. However, the defense claimed that he was simply talking without any corrupt intent, with the ex-Governor protesting his innocence throughout the trial.
Blagojevich is the second consecutive Illinois Governor to be convicted on federal charges. His Republican predecessor George Ryan is now serving time in a federal prison at Terre Haute, Indiana, after being convicted on corruption charges.
by RTT Staff Writer
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