A federal judge upheld the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Aug. 9, despite emotional calls for leniency by the jailed governor’s family.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel maintained that Blagojevich was guilty of corruption, despite an appeals court decision last year to throw out five of the 18 counts for which he was initially convicted.
“I am sympathetic to [his family], but as I said four years ago, the fault lies with the governor,” Zagel said. “I don’t dispute [that the governor] may be a model prisoner,” Zagel said. “[Inmates] think of him as a good man, but they don’t know him, don’t know him in the context of a powerful politician.”
The ruling was heartbreaking for Blagojevich’s two daughters who were heard crying in the courtroom. After the sentencing, his oldest daughter, Amy was quoted as saying, “He [Zagel] stole my childhood.”
Prior to the re-sentencing, Blagojevich was given the opportunity to address the court. Appearing via a video conference from his Colorado prison, a gray haired Blagojevich apologized for his actions, noting that his actions negatively affected his family. This is his first public appearance since he was sentenced to prison nearly five years ago.
“I recognize that my words and actions have led me here,” he said. “I’ve made mistakes. I wish I had a way to return the clock back.”
He added, “I experience very real sadness when I think of my family and I blame myself for that … Trying to make amends for that.”
His wife and two daughters, 20-year-old Amy and 13-year-old Annie made an emotional plea to the judge asking for leniency. In a letter submitted to the judge on Monday, Patti detailed that that the former governor speaks with the family via telephone on a nightly basis.
“The unfortunate fact, though, is that all the phone calls and emails and visits cannot fill the void of his absence,” Patti Blagojevich wrote. “They cannot come close to replacing his physical presence in our lives.”
The daughters of Blagojevich detailed the struggles they have since endured due to the incarceration of their father and have vowed to continue to support him.
“We speak every night, he helps me with my homework, he knows everything,” Annie said.”I almost don’t want to grow up because I want to wait for him.”
The five counts that were vacated last year were in relation to Blagojevich attempt to trade an impending vacant U.S. Senate seat once filled by then Senator Barack Obama, who was elected into office in 2008. Bribery-related charges were upheld, including selling a Senate appointment to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., in exchange for cash.
According to the Bureau of Prisons, Blagojevich is scheduled for release in May of 2024.