Ex-Illinois governor Blagojevich, family stunned by same prison sentence

CHICAGO, Aug. 9 (UPI) — Disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his family expected something different this time — but in the end, it was the same old story.

The former governor, convicted on more than a dozen counts of corruption from his days in office, again received a lengthy prison sentence from a federal judge on Tuesday — the exact same punishment, in fact, he received the first time.

Tuesday’s was a resentencing for Blagojevich after an appeals court last year threw out five of the 18 charges he was convicted of.

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The former governor, his wife and two daughters hoped that would mean a lighter punishment. The first time around, Blagojevich got 14 years. This time, they expected it would be less, perhaps as little as five years, which would mean he’d likely be released later this year.

In the view of U.S. District Judge James Zagel, however, not much had changed.

Despite the reduced conviction count, and though he praised Blagojevich for being a model prisoner at a correctional facility in Colorado, Zagel emphasized that the former politician was still guilty of numerous corruption charges — and said he needed to pay accordingly.

The sentence: 14 years. Again.

Before the sentence was read, Blagojevich’s daughters, Amy and Annie, pleaded with the court for leniency. His wife, Patti, similarly begged for mercy in a letter sent to the judge Monday night.

“Please give Annie the chance for a normal happy childhood, that has slipped away from Amy,” Patti Blagojevich wrote in the letter. “I am pleading with you, indeed begging you, to please be merciful.”

Video: Chicago Sun-Times

After the sentence, she called the judge’s punishment “unusually cruel, heartless and unfair.”

A now gray-haired Blagojevich himself said via teleconference during Tuesday’s hearing that he has been rehabilitated and recognizes that it was his actions that led him to prison and which hurt his family.

When the sentence was read, he simply shook his head and slumped into his seat.

Blagojevich’s wife said the family was “dumbfounded” and “flabbergasted” by the repeat 14-year prison term and one of his daughters expressed frustration with the judge.

“He stole my childhood,” Amy Blagojevich said after Tuesday’s hearing, motioning toward Zagel’s bench.

Illinois’ governor from 2003 to 2009, Blagojevich was impeached from office for various acts of corruption — which, according to prosecutors, even included the “auctioning off” of President Barack Obama‘s Illinois Senate seat following his 2008 election and attempting to extort now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He was booked into a Colorado prison in March 2012.

Last year, an appeals court dismissed five of Blagojevich’s 18 convictions — wire fraud, conspiracy to commit extortion, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery.

Earlier this year, though, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by Blagojevich to overturn the remaining convictions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Bonamici said Tuesday that the former governor has never taken full responsibility for the crimes he committed — instead only apologizing for making “mistakes.”

Blagojevich is scheduled to be released from federal custody in May 2024.



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