Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Ex-governor jailed over corruption

Ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich told a judge he had made 'terrible mistakes' as he was jailed over corruption charges (AP)

The Rod Blagojevich who once challenged a prosecutor to face him like a man and the glad-handing politician who took to celebrity TV shows to profess his innocence was nowhere to be found as he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption.

Frowning and pulling nervously at his tie, the disgraced former Illinois governor seemed like another person as he stepped up to the address the sentencing judge.

His bluster, once as conspicuous as his famously lavish head of dark hair, wiped out since his June convictions on charges that included attempting to sell President Barack Obama's US Senate seat.

In a low voice, the two-term Democrat apologised again and again, telling Judge James Zagel he had made "terrible mistakes".

"I caused it all. I'm not blaming anybody," Blagojevich said, trying with uncharacteristic humility to avert severe punishment. "I was the governor and I should have known better and I am just so incredibly sorry."

However it was not enough for Judge Zagel, who gave the 54-year-old a sentence close to the 15-20 years prosecutors had sought.

"The abuse of the office of governor is more damaging than the abuse of any other office, except the president's," he said.

"Whatever good things you did for people as governor, and you did some, I am more concerned with the occasions when you wanted to use your powers ... to do things that were only good for yourself."

Blagojevich slumped forward in his chair - momentarily frozen as the judge pronounced the sentence. Moments later, his wife Patti fell into his arms; when he pulled back from their embrace, he brushed tears from her cheek.

Illinois governors have gone bad with stunning frequency. Four of the last nine have been sentenced to prison, including Blagojevich's predecessor, George Ryan, who remains behind bars.

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