A judge ruled Tuesday that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will serve his original 14-year sentence. As Judge James Zagel announced his decision Tuesday, crying was heard in the courtroom.
Zagel convicted the former governor of committing a variety of corrupt acts, including the attempted sale of Barack Obama’s Illinois U.S. Senate seat. An appellate court threw out five of the conviction counts against him and ordered that he be resentenced.
Robert Blagojevich, Rod Blagojevich’s brother, said he thinks Zagel’s decision was wrong. He said perhaps his brother’s request of 5 years was too short, but thinks the sentence should have been somewhere in between.
“Yeah, I know my brother. He’s got a temper and he says stupid things. When the FBI wiretaps you and you’ve got a prosecution that is out with an agenda, they will use your words and they will twist them and make an argument that fits the vaguest of the 5,000 criminal federal laws – we all don’t even know what they are – that he had to defend against. My brother made mistakes. He’s taken responsibility and he’s paying the price for them.
“He was convicted. He’s in prison. He’s serving. He’s admitted culpability and responsibility. How much can you squeeze out of a turnip? I don’t know. He deserves a break,” Robert Blagojevich said.
Patti Blagojevich, the former governor’s wife, expressed her family’s devastation at hearing the Zagel’s ruling. Amy and Annie Blagojevich, the couple’s daughters, were in tears as their mother spoke.
“From our point of view and from the point of view of thousands of people that have reached out to me over the last 4 years, we find his sentence unusually cruel and heartless and unfair,” Patti Blagojevich said. “The judge clearly made up his mind before it even started.”
Rod Blagojevich made his appearance Tuesday over a video link. He was not at the Dirksen Federal Building in person. In the video, he was dressed in a navy blue prison outfit, sitting in a chair, smiling and fiddling with his hands as he waited for the hearing to begin. The once raven-haired politician had a full head of white hair.
When Zagel walked into the courtroom, Blagojevich grew serious, looked at the camera and listened to what the judge had to say.
Blagojevich addressed the court through the video link Tuesday, apologizing to Zagel and saying he wished he had done things differently.
“I recognize that it was my mistakes and my actions that led me here,” Blagojevich said. “I wish I could find a way to turn the clock back and make different choice, but that is not possible. Among the mistakes I made is the way I fought back. Too many battles that have been fought in court I fought in public.”
He said being away from his family has given him something to work for.
“It has given me a purpose, to try to do better and make amends for the mistakes of the past and to try to redeem myself,” Blagojevich said.