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December 2011


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

OUCH! Judge Hammers Blago With 14 Year Sentence

By Danny Fenster
A federal judge in Chicago on Wednesday socked Rod Blagojevich, the ever-chatty ex-Illinois Governor, with a 14-year prison term, just one year short of the minimum the prosecution had recommended, according to the Chicago Tribune. He is now scheduled to report to prison Feb. 16.

“The vast majority of facts in this case were not disputed,” Judge James Zagel said at sentencing, according to Chicago News Cooperative reporter Idalmy Carrera. “It’s very difficult to dispute what was on the recordings.”

The prosecution in court papers had asked the judge to sentence Blago to 15 to 20 years.

But during the sentencing hearing, which began on Tuesday, the  defense tried to play up the good things Blagojevich had done as governor, and his role as a responsible father. “Whatever good things you did for people as governor…I am more concerned with the occasions where you used your power only to do good for yourself,” Judge Zagel said to him before sentencing.

A crowd of 50 or so had gathered outside the courtroom this morning for the second day of sentencing as Blagojevich and his wife Patti entered the courtroom holding hands, tweeted Chicago Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney. Blagojevich appeared to be more open to the press, joking with some reporters.

Blagojevich listened, shaking his head as the prosecution described him as manipulative, calling his corruption “perverse and unbound.” The former governor then acknowledged and apologized profusely for his crimes–acts Zagel later said came too late, describing the pain of explaining his guilty verdict to his daughters.

It had been clear by the end of yesterday’s court session, the Chicago Tribune reported, that the sentence would be stiff and the defense had given up the idea of avoiding prison altogether.

“I have nobody to blame but myself,” Blagojevich said in his final statements, then asked Judge Zagel for mercy before the court went to recess and the sentence was read.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald issued a statement saying:

“Blagojevich betrayed the trust and faith that Illinois voters placed in him, feeding great public frustration, cynicism and disengagement among citizens. People have the right to expect that their elected leaders will honor the oath they swear to, and this sentence shows that the justice system will stand up to protect their expectations.”

Robert D. Grant, head of the Chicago FBI added: “The sentence handed down today represents a repayment of the debt that Blagojevich owes to the people of Illinois. While promising an open and honest administration, in reality, the former governor oversaw a comprehensive assault on the public’s trust.”

The sentence was by far the harshest any crooked Illinois governor had been given. And it topped by one year the 13-year sentence a fed judge in Alexandria, Va. had given ex-New Orleans Congressman William Jefferson was given in 2008 after being convicted on public corruption charges.  Jefferson remains free pending an appeal.

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