Blagojevich’s Bid for Reduced Sentence Denied

     CHICAGO (CN) — A federal judge upheld a 14-year sentence Tuesday for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of corruption charges in 2011.
     Blagojevich has already served over four years in a federal prison in Colorado for his conviction of 17 counts of wire fraud, bribery and racketeering.
     The disgraced governor tried to sell President Barack Obama’s state Senate seat after he was elected, federal agents recorded him saying he would demand hundreds of thousands of dollars for the seat or just give it to himself.
     Blagojevich ultimately asked for millions in seed money to open a new division of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, where he would work, in exchange for giving the seat to Obama’s pick.
     Arrested in 2008 on 19 federal charges, Blagojevich also attempted to extort campaign donations from Children’s Memorial Hospital and a prominent racetrack owner for signing bills that would benefit them.
     The state Senate voted unanimously to impeach him in 2009, and he was convicted and sentenced in 2011. Five counts were dismissed last year by the Seventh Circuit on technical grounds.
     His infamous arrogance missing and his signature mop of hair now an undyed stark white, Blagojevich addressed the court via video conference.
     Describing his time spent in prison teaching history classes and helping other inmates practice for job interviews, Blagojevich said it has “helped me begin the process of reconciliation.”
     “I apologize to the court, I apologize to the government. I know better now,” Blagojevich said. “I recognize that it’s my words and my actions that brought me here.”
     Defense attorney Leonard Goodman painted Blagojevich as a changed man who was only guilty of “using improper tactics in an attempt to raise funds for his political campaign.”
     Goodman said the former governor never took bribes or gifts for personal gain but “pressured” some groups to donate money for causes he “believed would benefit the people of Illinois.”
     He was “motivated by his passion and not by greed” when he asked for a federal job, said Goodman. “He wanted to be in a position to continue to advance this cause [of children’s health].”
     Attorney Melissa Matuzak read support letters from several fellow inmates extolling Blagojevich’s virtues and calling him “a friend and a mentor.”
     The governor’s two daughters gave emotional statements, 13-year-old Annie saying she doesn’t “want to grow up because I want to wait for him to come home.”
     Amy, 20, said “the longer my father is gone the stranger Annie and I become to him.”
     Judge James Zagel sided with the prosecution though, who said Blagojevich “has never acknowledged his criminal conduct” and continues to refer to his “serious” offences as “mistakes.”
     Dismissing five counts and serving four years of his sentence are “no diminishment whatsoever of the defendant’s offenses or his culpability for them,” the government’s attorney said.
     She added that the governor had been recorded stating that he knew exactly what he was doing and that his legal and personal situation came before all else.
     Judge Zagel said he believed “political and personal gains were very much intermingled” in this case and Blagojevich had shown a “flagrant disrespect for the law.”
     “The fabric of the state is torn and trust among its citizens is diminished” because of Blagojevich, said Zagel.
     Judge Zagel imposed his original sentence of 168 months, adding that it needed to be a deterrent against corruption for other political figures in Illinois.

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