A federal judge in Chicago upheld former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14 year prison sentence Tuesday, after an appellate court raised the prospect of a reduced sentence.
Blagojevich’s fastidiously maintained rich brown hair now has shocks of white since his conviction for corruption in 2011. The disgraced former governor appeared in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel by video conference from Federal Correctional Institution, Englewood in Colorado, in his first public appearance since he reported to jail in 2012. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit overturned five of the corruption convictions in 2015, but maintained convictions related to his sale of a U.S. Senate seat in exchange for campaign donations.
Blagojevich’s lawyers had hoped the vacated convictions would provide the pretext for a reduced sentence. Members of his immediate family made impassioned appeals for leniency of Tuesday, arguing the former governor had undergone a significant conversion of character while in jail — prisoners say Blagojevich lectures frequently on topics ranging from the Civil War to Richard Nixon, and “The Jailhouse Rockers,” a convicts band with a 21-set list.
“Please give Annie the chance for a normal happy childhood, that has slipped away from Amy,” Blagojevich’s wife Patti told the court of their two children. “I am pleading with you, indeed begging you, to please be merciful.”
Zagel was unmoved, affirming Blagojevich’s sentence. The judge ruled that the former governor’s conduct in office was so troubling it far outweighs any penitent acts since his conviction. With good behavior, he will likely be released in 2024.
“Quite frankly, I’m dumbfounded and flabbergasted,” Patti Blagojevich told reporters after the hearing.
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