Ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Talks of ‘Dark and Long Journey’ to Prison
Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was never one to mince words during his political career, had a final moment in the spotlight on Wednesday when he made a statement before reporting to a federal prison to serve a 14-year sentence for corruption.
Calling his impending imprisonment a “calamity” and a “dark and long journey,” Blagojevich told a gaggle of reporters and supporters he was finding it difficult to know what to tell his children in the coming hours. “It’s hard for me to say that I have to go to prison,” he said.
The former governor also expressed optimism about his appeal on corruption conviction. “This is not over,” he said.
More than 50 reporters were swarming his home by mid-afternoon, including two television helicopters hovering overhead and a dozen TV trucks parked along his street. Some neighbors were signing a banner hung over a railing on Blagojevich’s house that read, “Thanks Mr. Governor. We Will Pray.”
“Everything I talked about doing when it came to campaign fundraising and political horse trading I believed was on the right side of the law,” Blagojevich said, echoing comments he made to the judge in the case.
“The decision went against me. I am responsible for the things that I’ve said,” he said. “I accept that decision as hard as it is. And the law as it stands right now is that I have to go do what I have to go do. And this is the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do.”
Blagojevich spoke outside the home where FBI agents showed up on the morning of Dec. 9, 2008, and arrested him. At the time, a surprised Blagojevich thought the arrest was a joke.
But it was not a joke. Federal agents had spent months wire-tapping Blagojevich’s telephones and prosecutors accused him of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, in return for political favors and donations.
Three years and two trials later, U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel sentenced the two-term governor and father of two daughters to 14 years in prison for corruption.