Blagojevich basks in last hurrah before first day serving 14 years
CHICAGO | Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich embraced the public spotlight one last time Wednesday, claiming on the day before he reports to prison that he always thought what he did was legal and expressing faith that an appeal of his corruption convictions will succeed.
The famously talkative Blagojevich seemed to relish the attention as he spoke to a throng of television cameras, reporters and well-wishers outside his Chicago home less than 24 hours before he was required to arrive at a Colorado prison to begin serving a 14-year sentence.
He was convicted on 18 counts during two trials, including charges that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Obama’s vacated Senate seat from Illinois.
“While my faith in things has sometimes been challenged, I still believe this is America, this is a country that is governed by the rule of law, that the truth ultimately will prevail,” the impeached governor said during an event that seemed part farewell, part campaign rally. “As bad as it is, [this] is the beginning of another part of a long and hard journey that will only get worse before it gets better, but that this is not over.”
Supporters chanted “free our governor” and “he’s not guilty,” and a banner hung over a railing on Blagojevich’s porch read: “Thanks Mr. Governor. We Will Pray.” After his statement, Blagojevich signed autographs and chatted with supporters.
Standing beside his wife, the 55year-old father of two daughters appeared emotional at times. He said preparing to leave for prison is “the hardest thing I’ve ever done” and that he had difficulty even saying he was going to prison.
But at other moments, he appeared to be back on the campaign stump, insisting that he always did what he thought was right for Illinois. Blagojevich said he “actually helped real ordinary people” and listed what he believed were his accomplishments as governor, including expanding health care for children and not raising taxes.
He reports Thursday to the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in suburban Denver for prison assignment.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich leaves home Wednesday with daughter Annie to meet with reporters and later depart for a federal correctional facility in Colorado for assignment to serve a 14-year sentence for corruption.