Once-Proud Blagojevich Faces Life As A Convict
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UPDATED 06/28/11 4:42 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich was solemn and philosophical Monday morning, as he faced the reality of a serious prison term looming after being found guilty of 17 charges.
Jurors in the trial issued their verdict Monday afternoon. They convicted Blagojevich of 17 of the 20 counts against him, including allegations that he was trying to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama in 2008.
Blagojevich must now go through pre-sentencing procedures, and will later be sentenced to a prison term that will likely amount to a decade. But on Tuesday morning, he went about his daily business. Reporters caught up with him near his Ravenswood Manor home, as he prepared to drive his daughter, Amy, to summer school.
“A lot of what life is, is how you deal with your adversities. It’s a true test of who you are, and it’s an example to your children on how you deal with the tough times,” Blagojevich said.
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“And so one of the things that motivates me, and has motivated me and continues to motivate me, and Patti, is to try to show our kids that as tough as things can get sometimes, as unfair as you think things might be, you just keep doing the things you can and dealing with the adversity, and through that adversity and hardship can come good things.”
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, a day after he was convicted of 17 corruption charges, Blagojevich faces the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence within the next several months. Before a sentence is handed down, he will have to report to a probation officer for a pre-sentencing investigation, including a drug test. Defense attorneys also are likely to file a request for a new trial and, ultimately, appeal his convictions.
“There’s no question they’re going to file an appeal. None,” CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said.
Blagojevich’s defense team said as much on Monday after the guilty verdict was handed down.
Miller said he believes the defense might have some valid grounds for an appeal.
“The judge’s rulings. You know, we sat in court and heard over and over again, government objections and over and over again they were sustained, almost 100 percent of the time,” Miller said. “We also heard defense objections almost overruled 100 percent of the time.”
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The former governor said he was “stunned” by the verdict.
On Tuesday, one Chicago man walked miles to Blagojevich’s house to let him know he felt the same way. Bhanu Raval walked up to the Blagojevich home and was invited in.
After a brief stay, he spoke to reporters on the way out.
“I told him that I’m sorry that he has to go to jail, because all politicians are doing this, not just Blago. All are doing this,” Raval said.
Earlier in the day, Blagojevich ducked a question from CBS 2’s Susanna Song on whether he had thought about the time he will likely spend in prison.
But Scott Fawell, who was chief of staff for imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan and served 4 1/2 years in prison for his role in the licenses for bribes scandal that led to Ryan’s conviction, said Blagojevich will have to make some major adjustments when he eventually reports to prison.
“You can’t be governor of a prison,” Fawell said.
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It might be tough for Blagojevich to curb his cocky, bombastic nature, but Fawell said Blagojevich won’t have much choice in prison, because the guards will make it happen.
“They will break you down in some fashion, whether that means, you know, scrubbing the floor or cleaning a toilet,” Fawell said. “They’ll put you in your place and, you know, it’s not a place you go in there smiling and glad-handing and back-slapping.”
In prison, able-bodied inmates are required to work, from jobs in the kitchen to duty as janitors or warehouse workers, a far cry from Blagojevich’s days as a lawyer and politician.
Blagojevich will soon have to meet with a probation officer who will draw up a pre-sentence investigation report, which will include information on his family and employment history. It will also determine the sentencing guideline range for U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel.
Since the government wants Blagojevich sentenced quickly, the obvious question is where might he serve his time? That’s up to the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Officials will use Blagojevich’s pre-sentencing report to help determine the prison and risk level. Prison officials say they try to place inmates within 500 miles of their home, but that’s not guaranteed.
The counts on which Blagojevich was convicted carry a combined possible prison term of 300 years. But legal experts expect something more in the order of a decade.
“He’s probably facing somewhere between six and eleven years, is my suspicion,” Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Richard Kling told WBBM Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller.
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Since his arrest while still in office in December 2008, Blagojevich has become a pop culture icon. He has been all over the media, professing his innocence on daytime and evening television, losing on “Celebrity Apprentice,” calling himself “blacker than Barack Obama” in an interview with Esquire magazine, and most recently, appearing in a commercials for Wonderful Pistachios in an ad campaign that also featured Snooki.
A sentencing date for Blagojevich has not yet been set.