SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) – The Illinois Senate ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich by unanimous vote Thursday and barred him from holding public office. The Senate voted 59-0 to remove Blagojevich as governor and held another vote, again unanimous, to bar him from public office.
Federal prosecutors say Blagojevich used his power to extort political donations and plotted to sell President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.
After a four-day trial, the state Senate found that Blagojevich, 52, had engaged in a pattern of abuse of power.
The vote came hours after Blagojevich addressed the Senate chamber for the first time during the trial. Blagojevich denied the federal charges and pressed the Senate to allow him to subpoena Presidential Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other prominent figures as defense witnesses. He portrayed himself as a dedicated public servant who is the victim of a witch hunt and said his removal would set a dangerous precedent for Illinois.
“I want to apologize to you for what happened, but I can’t because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Blagojevich said during his address.
Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, a fellow Democrat, was sworn in as governor.
Blagojevich is the second consecutive Illinois governor to be charged with corruption, but the first to be impeached. Former Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6½-year federal sentence for receiving gifts and donations in exchange for political donations.