Blago­je­vich basks in last hur­rah be­fore first day serv­ing 14 years

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BYMICHAEL TARM

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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