Blagojevich Behind Bars: ‘He’s More Mellow, Sounds Humbler’

(CBS) – Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced former governor of Illinois, talks for the first time about his life, his family and life in prison.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole sat down with the Chicago Magazine reporter who heard firsthand how Blagojevich has and hasn’t changed.

When most of us last saw Blagojevich he was headed to prison for a long time. Some five years later, he appears on the cover of Chicago Magazine, his trademark thick dark hair now turned gray. It’s a picture snapped behind bars with a camera rented from the federal facility’s commissary.

“I think he’s matured a little bit — I think he’s grown up,” says journalist David Bernstein.

Bernstein scored two phone conversations and a half-dozen emails with the former governor at his prison in Colorado. The article appears in the latest issue and online.

“I think he’s more mellow, I think he sounds humbler,” the writer says.

blago Blagojevich Behind Bars: Hes More Mellow, Sounds Humbler

Chicago Magazine’s cover story on jailed former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (CBS/Chicago Magazine)

The fallen politician, now serving a 14-year sentence for federal corruption charges, says he made mistakes but is adamant he didn’t break the law.

Blagojevich, now 60, has worked in the prison’s kitchen and taught history to inmates, he says.

“My jurisdiction was once all of the State of Illinois.  Now I’ve got two hallways to clean … I feel like I am doing a pretty good job on those floors,” Blagojevich is quoted as saying.

“He gets along with everybody, he’s got friends there, but he also is sort of a loner,” Bernstein says.

Blagojevich spoke of that loneliness, saying: “While you are almost always surrounded by other people and rarely if ever alone, you are alone. All alone except for the loneliness that never leaves you alone, it’s always with you; a constant companion.”

Watching his daughters grow up without him has been “agonizing” for Blagojevich, Bernstein says. He sees his family in person three to four times a year. He can speak up to 300 minutes a month with his daughters, Amy and Annie, and his wife Patti. They talk nightly.

Patti Blagojevich also believes in her husband’s innocence. “In some ways, it has brought them together,” Bernstein says. “They feel like they are trying to right a wrong.”

Blagojevich says he could not have negotiated a plea deal because that would have been a betrayal of the facts. If he had accepted the plea deal, he most likely would have scored a much lighter sentence.

 

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