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Former US governor Rod Blagojevich gets 14 years for corruption

Blagojevich famously tried to auction off Barack Obama’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Blagojevich leaving his home in Chicago this morning
Blagojevich leaving his home in Chicago this morning
Image: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, THE ousted Illinois governor whose three-year battle against criminal charges became a national spectacle, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The sentence is one of the stiffest penalties imposed for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics.

Blagojevich’s 18 convictions included allegations of trying to leverage his power to appoint someone to President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat to raise campaign cash or land a high-paying job.

Judge James Zagel gave Blagojevich some credit for taking responsibility for his actions – which the former governor did in an address to the court earlier in the day – but said that didn’t mitigate his crimes. Zagel also said Blagojevich did some good things for people as governor, but was more concerned about using his powers for himself.

“When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired,” Zagel said.

As the judge announced the sentence, Blagojevich hunched forward and his face appeared frozen. Minutes later, his wife, Patti Blagojevich, stood up and fell into her husband’s arms. He pulled back to brush tears off her cheek and then rubbed her shoulders.

The twice-elected Democrat is now the second former Illinois governor in a row to be sentenced to prison, and the fourth Illinois governor in the last four decades. His Republican predecessor, George Ryan, currently is serving a sentence of six and a half years, also for corruption.

‘I’m here convicted of crimes’

Blagojevich, in a last plea for mercy, tried something he never had before: an apology. After years of insisting he was innocent, he told the judge he’d made “terrible mistakes” and acknowledged that he broke the law.

“I’m here convicted of crimes … ,” Blagojevich said, “and I am accepting of it, I acknowledge it and I of course am unbelievably sorry for it.”

The 54-year-old was not taken immediately into custody. In white-collar cases, convicted felons are usually given at least a few weeks to report to prison while federal authorities select a suitable facility. Blagojevich is expected to appeal his conviction, but it is unlikely to affect when he reports to prison.

FBI wiretap evidence proved decisive in the court hearings. In the most notorious recording, Blagojevich is heard crowing that his chance to name someone to Obama’s seat was “f—ing golden” and he wouldn’t let it go “for f—ing nothing.”

While Blagojevich will likely end up at a minimal security prison, he’ll be largely cut off from the outside world. Visits by family are strictly limited, Blagojevich will have to share a cell with other inmates and he must work an eight-hour-a-day menial job – possibly scrubbing toilets or mopping floors – at just 12 cents an hour.

Read: ‘I’m not a crook’: the top 5 US political scandals>

More: Illinois governor tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat>

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Associated Press

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