CHICAGO (CBS) — The Blagojevich saga started more than a decade ago.
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov has a closer look back at the case against Blagojevich, and how he ended up in prison.
It was damp and dreary on December 9, 2008 when federal agents entered Governor Rod Blagojevich’s North Side home, arresting him for corruption and raiding his campaign office.
“The conduct would make Lincoln would roll over in his grave,” said federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
It marked the beginning of Blagojevich’s long legal battle, as he faced two dozen corruption charges for exchanging political action for campaign contributions.
Charges he denied from day one.
“I want to say this to the people of Illinois: I have not let them down,” Blagojevich said.
Federal prosecutors claimed otherwise, accusing Blagojevich of five schemes in which he hoped to make that trade. The biggest? Trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat, with some of the evidence found on wiretaps.
“I’ve got this thing and it’s fu***** golden. And I’m not just giving it up for f****** nothing,” Blagojevich said.
The charges led to the second term governor’s impeachment and to a frenzy of national, pretrial appearances. They included a pistachio commercial, Late Night With David Letterman and Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump.
But Blagojevich’s arguable grandstanding didn’t sit well with the government, including remarks directed at U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald two months before his first trial, didn’t help.
“I’ll be in court tomorrow. I hope you’re man enough to be there too,” Blagojevich said.
After eleven days of deliberations, a jury found Blagojevich guilty of lying to the FBI. But Judge James Zagel declared a mistrial after jurors couldn’t reach a verdict on 23 other counts.
Trial two began the next spring. That jury convicted him on 18 counts. Zagel later sentenced him to 14 years in prison, rejecting Blagojevich’s assertions he hadn’t caused any harm.
“And maybe one of the lessons to this whole story is you got be, maybe a little bit more humble,” Blagojevich said.
On March 15, 2012, Blagojevich left his house to report to prison. News crews flew with him to Denver, even following him into a restaurant for his last meal as a free man.
‘I got fired by Donald Trump. Yea. This thing I gotta do now is worse,” Blagojevich lamented.
Blagojevich walked into FCI Englewood early that afternoon. All of his direct appeals, including those to the U.S. Supreme Court, went nowhere.
But Blagojevich’s connection and references to Donald Trump proved key.
When all else failed, he and his wife Patti Blagojevich began what some call a direct, public plea to President Trump, hoping he’d sympathize and set Blagojevich free.