CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel handed down the sentence on Wednesday, shortly after Blagojevich made a plea for leniency, following his conviction on 18 corruption counts.
Blagojevich addressed reporters briefly in the Dirksen Federal Building lobby after the sentencing. He solemnly quoted the poet Rudyard Kipling as he reacted to the sentence.
“Rudyard Kipling, in his poem, ‘If,’ among the thing he wrote is, ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors the same,’” he said. “For Patti and I, and especially me, 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; to be strong for Patti.”
He said his next mission is to go home with his wife and explain to his daughters, Amy, 15, and Annie, 8, what will happen from here.
“We’re going to keep fighting on through this adversity. See you soon,” he said.
Outside the courthouse, defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky said there are plans to appeal sentence “for all the reasons that we said in our post-trial motion.” He had no further comment.
Blagojevich did not speak again when he returned to his Ravenswood Manor home, although he did take the time to shake hands with supporters and autograph a book.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who led the prosecution against Blagojevich, also spoke to reporters after the sentencing. He also led the prosecution of convicted former Gov. George Ryan, and he lamented the fact that Illinois has now sent two consecutive governors to prison.
“In any state, it would be awful if two governors were convicted in a century, and yet we’ve seen it twice in five years,” Fitzgerald said.
He said it sent a message that the public and judges have had enough, and as far as political corruption is concerned, “this must stop.”
Any elected official who is thinking about becoming corrupt should now be acutely aware of the consequences, Fitzgerald said.
Chicago FBI Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Bill Monroe read a statement from his superior, Robert Grant.
“‘Today’s verdict – no one is above the law, and proves that government is supposed to exist for the good of the people and not the other way around. The jury made it clear that the people come first,’” Grant’s statement said. “I wish these words, which are so appropriate for today’s sentencing, were mine. Regrettably, these were the words of the former governor himself, commenting on the conviction of his predecessor in April of 2006. Had Mr. Blagojevich truly believed what he said, we would not be here today lamenting the sentence of another Illinois public official.”
Before the sentence, an emotional Blagojevich told the judge: “I accept the people’s verdict, judge. They found me guilty and all I can say is I never wanted to hurt anyone … I would hope you can find some mercy.”
Before issuing his sentence, Zagel was pointed in blasting Blagojevich’s crimes.
“His abuse of the office of governor is more damaging than the abuse of any other office in the United States except president,” Zagel said.
Zagel ordered Blagojevich to report to prison on Feb. 16, 2012. He also ordered two years of supervised release and drug testing.
Where Blagojevich will serve his time is still to be determined, although his defense team asked that he serve his sentence in a prison camp.
Immediately after the sentenced was announced, the disgraced former governor mouthed “don’t worry” to his wife, Patti, and touched her hand before walking up to the bench to get his surrender date.
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At his retrial earlier this year, Blagojevich, 54, was convicted of 17 charges, including allegations he tried to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.
Last summer, at his first trial, jurors convicted him of lying to the FBI, but were deadlocked on all other charges.
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 15 to 20 years, noting that Blagojevich showed no remorse for his actions and has repeatedly painted the prosecution of him as a political witch hunt.
The defense had pushed for a sentence of as little as probation, arguing that Blagojevich’s actions did not cause any public harm and that h he did not profit from the crimes he was convicted of committing.
Blagojevich likely will serve his sentence at a minimum security facility, but that must be determined by the federal Bureau of Prisons.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin released a statement after the sentencing: “I hope today’s sentencing finally draws this sad chapter in Illinois history to a close.”