U.S. District Judge James Zagel gave disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich a birthday/Christmas gift he’ll never forget: 14 years in a federal prison for his conviction on 18 corruption charges that included soliciting money in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama. Blagojevich, who turns 55 on Saturday, must surrender on Feb. 15 and will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence, or close to 12 years, The Chicago Sun-Times reports.
“When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily or quickly repaired,” Zagel said in response to Balgojevich’s pleas for leniency. “You did that damage.”
Blagojevich is the state’s second consecutive governor and the fourth in the last 40 years to receive a prison sentence. Former governor George Ryan, a Republican, is currently serving a term in prison, also for corruption.
Blagojevich, who says his life is now in “ruins,” acknowledged he’d broken the law and made “terrible mistakes.”
“I never set out to break the law. The jury decided I was guilty, I am accepting of it, I acknowledge it,” he said. “I have nobody to blame but myself for my stupidity and actions and the things I did and I thought I could do. I’m not blaming anybody.”
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(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)