Blagojevich Begins Final Countdown To Prison
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UPDATED 12/08/11 11:32 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The countdown is on until deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich has to report to prison.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, unlike the past when the ex-governor would come out of his house to take his daughters to school or go for a jog, there was no sign of him whatsoever on Thursday morning.
At one point, a Blagojevich supporter stopped by the house and rang the doorbell. He said Patti Blagojevich, the ex-governor’s wife, came to the door, but said her husband was not available.
The Blagojevich family’s large brick home at the corner of Sunnyside Avenue and Richmond Street was dark inside Thursday morning, and the front steps were bare.
Twenty-four hours earlier, the scene was far different. Chaos spilled across the front yard with a mob of reporters and photographers hovered over Blagojevich as he left for court. Hours later after U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel handed down his sentence, a crowd was waiting outside the house when Blagojevich returned.
Blagojevich will begin his sentence for corruption on Feb. 16. After the decision by Judge Zagel, Blagojevich vowed to stay strong.
“Rudyard Kipling, in his poem, ‘If,’ among the things he wrote is, ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors the same,’ ” he said. “For Patti and I, and especially me, this is a time to be strong. This is a time to fight through adversity. This is a time for me to be strong for my children; to be strong for Patti.”
The ex-governor’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, couldn’t hold back tears as her husband spoke to reporters.
Although Blagojevich apologized for his actions when he addressed the court, Judge Zagel called him immature, said he hurt faith in government, and hit him hard.
Defense attorneys plan to appeal. They also must request a prison by Friday.
As for the reality of going to prison, if it hasn’t sunken in yet, it’s certain that it will this Thursday morning. Blagojevich has 71 days to prepare for his departure, and say goodbye to his wife, two daughters and home in Chicago and head off to prison.
“It’s absolutely dehumanizing,” said former Chicago City Clerk Jim Laski.
Laski was convicted of bribery and spent one year in prison. He says it was a “lonely existence.”
“He’s going to have to strip down, and they’re going to do cavity searches,” Laski said. “He’s going to be fingerprinted, he’s going to get photographed and they’re going to ship all of the clothes that he wore that day back in a box back home to his wife.”
Laski still carries his Bureau of Prisons identification card as a reminder of his bad choices in the past.
Scott Fawell, a former top aide to ex-Gov. George Ryan, did 55 months for racketeering and fraud. He says the second or third night of his sentence, prison officials drilled this into his head: “We know you used to be somebody on the outside. But you’re nobody here.”
“In some ways, it’s tougher for guys like me and for what Rod will go through,” Fawell said. “He’s certainly going to have to tone it down.”
Ryan himself was convicted of political racketeering and is currently serving a 6 1/2-year sentence.
If Blagojevich ends up being sent to a minimum security prison, it could be fairly close by, in downstate Pekin; Milan, Mich.; or Duluth or Sandstone, Minn.
But contrary to popular perception, “minimum security” does not mean “country club.”
“Even the nicest prisons are not places where you want to be,” said former federal prosecutor Joel Levin.
“He’s not Rod Blagojevich when he gets there,” Laski added.
Blagojevich must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, and thus will be eligible for release in about 12 years.
While he’ll be able to celebrate Christmas and the holidays with his family this year, the next time after that he will be 67 years old. His daughters Annie and Amy, now 8 and 15, will be 20 and 27.