Blagojevich, 54, was found guilty of 17 charges in June. Prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel for a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison, arguing it would set an example in a state where four of the nine most recent governors have been convicted for crimes committed before, during or after they held office.
The twice-elected Democrat received the longest sentence among the four Illinois governors sent to prison in the last four decades. He is the second in a row to go to jail; his Republican predecessor, George Ryan, is now serving 6 1/2 years. The other two did three years or less.
Blagojevich made a last plea for mercy, telling the judge he’d made “terrible mistakes” and admitted for the first time that he broke the law.
“I caused it all, I’m not blaming anybody,” Blagojevich said. “I was the governor and I should have known better and I am just so incredibly sorry.”
It didn’t help.
“Whatever good things you did for people as governor, and you did some, I am more concerned with the occasions when you wanted to use your powers … to do things that were only good for yourself,” Zagel said.
“The governor was not marched along this criminal path by his staff,” the judge concluded. “He marched them.”