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CHICAGO (CBS) – Rod Blagojevich’s cross-country journey to federal prison Thursday was one of the most scrutinized trips in recent memory for a public figure.
CBS 2 was there for the Chicago-to-Denver leg of his travels.
The deposed governor and convicted felon arrived at O’Hare International Airport just like any other passenger, but his trip through Terminal 3 was hardly routine.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
When the Chrysler sedan stopped at the drop-off, the ex-governor hugged his driver and another man before he was besieged by reporters. He didn’t talk outside, but Blagojevich signed an autograph inside and had a question for reporters, CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports.
“Did you get some rest last night?” Blagojevich asked, referring to the media circus at his home Wednesday when he held a news conference on his last day in Chicago.
As to whether he got any rest, Blagojevich conceded, “Not that much.”
Then it was off to the terminal.
“I better get on the plane. I don’t think they are going to hold it for me,” Blagojevich said.
At that point, a man who once flew in government planes had to take off his shoes and go through airport security just like everyone else. The 55-year-old fallen politician even had to raise his arms for a full body scan.
After making it through security, Blagojevich was greeted by a man who gave him a gift of popcorn.
“We’re praying for you. Enjoy your popcorn,” the man said.
When the ex-governor stopped to tie his shoes it took a long time because his laces were so long they required many knots. When he looked up, even he was surprised by the throng of people surrounding him.
“Did something happen?” he joked.
He signed more autographs, shook hands and posed for pictures with passengers and airport workers and seemed to enjoy the support of well-wishers.
American Airlines Flight 3612 departed at 7:30 a.m. On board was CBS 2 photojournalist Lou Kleinberg, who sat behind Blagojevich in. He recounted the flight to CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole.
Blagojevich showed off a volume he would be taking to prison: a book about King David. He sat with his two attorneys and made small talk with members of the media.
And yet the former governor occasionally appeared pensive as he prepared to begin serving his 14-year sentence at (FCI) Englewood in Littleton, Colo.
“He had moments where he would just go silent. I saw him looking out the window, at the mountains out here in Colorado,” Kleinberg said. “There were times when he would just go silent, and as we know from covering him over the years, he doesn’t go silent very often.”
He continued to joke as he deplaned and commented to yet another crush of cameras.
“The decision went against me. That’s what the law is, and I accept that and now I have to bear some of the burdens,” Blagojevich said.
Seconds later, the disgraced former governor left through a back exit, onto the tarmac — and the final leg of his journey to prison.