Ex-Gov. Blagojevich: I made 'terrible mistakes'

December 7, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Showing remorse for the first time, Blagojevich told Judge James Zagel he made "terrible mistakes."

"I am responsible for this. I'm not blaming anybody. I should have known better. I am incredibly sorry," Blagojevich said.

Judge Zagel will sentence Blagojevich for his 18 convictions on Wednesday. Prosecutors have asked for 15 to 20 years while Blagojevich's attorneys have asked for a much more lenient sentence. Judge Zagel has federal guidelines to follow, but the exact length of the sentence is up to his discretion.

Blagojevich said there is a line between politics and horse-trading.

"I thought they were permissible, and I was mistaken," Blagojevich said. "I never set out to break the law, I never set out to cross lines."

Blagojevich stopped short of admitting any guilt, instead saying he will take "responsibility" for the jury's decision to convict him.

From his arrest on, Blagojevich often turned to the media, participating in reality TV shows and making the TV circuit. He apologized for trying the case in the media, saying, "I should have known better."

Blagojevich mum on morning of sentencing

Rod Blagojevich said little more than "morning" to the throng of reporters outside his Ravenswood Manor home as he left for court with his wife, Patti. The former governor will learn his sentence Wednesday on corruption convictions.

Almost three years ago, Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges. He was found guilty on 18 charges in two separate trials.

On Wednesday, Judge James Zagel will hand down his sentence. But first Blagojevich is expected to address the courtroom. Will Blagojevich follow his lawyers' lead and admit any wrongdoing or show any remorse?

Prosecutor Reid Schar reiterated Wednesday that the government is asking for a 15- to 20-year sentence on Blagojevich's corruption convictions. He outlined the reasons behind the government's position again.

"The defendant was corrupt, he was corrupt the day he took the oath of office, and he was corrupt the day he was arrested," Schar said.

"It wasn't murky," Schar told the judge about Blagojevich's involvement. "He knew from a very early date exactly what he could do to help the people of Illinois and he didn't do it. Instead, what he did was first to personal benefits, jobs, millions of dollars, and things for him in relation to the Senate seat."

Attorneys argue sentencing; Patti, Blagojevich daughter write to judge

On Tuesday, the first day of the sentencing hearing, the packed courtroom got to hear attorneys for Rod Blagojevich admit -- for the first time -- that the former governor committed crimes.

"It went a long way for showing respect to the legal process," said jury foreman Connie Wilson. "I've heard from a lot of citizens who say they want to hear from him that maybe he stepped over the line."

The defense pushed its point that other public officials have committed corrupt crimes far worse than Blagojevich, and they got only a fraction of the prison time the government is asking for in the Blagojevich case.

In a letter read in court, Mrs. Patti Blagojevich wrote the judge, "I ask you humbly with the life of my husband and the childhood of my daughters in your hands, be merciful."

The Blagojevich couple's teenage daughter, Amy, wrote to the judge, "It's too drastic a change. I need my father," "I need him for my high school graduation," and "I'll need him when my heart gets broken."

Some of the jurors from the second Blagojevich trial were in court listening to the sentencing hearing.

"I do feel sorry for his daughter. I have a daughter the same age, and I can't imagine what she'd go through if she lost her father for any amount of time, but then again, as the judge said, there are a lot of people with families," one juror said.

"They presented a case to show that Rod Blagojevich has another side. He has a side that does have good character. But the thing is that, you know, that doesn't absolve him of the crimes he committed," said juror Jessica Hubinek.

Legal analysts believe that Blagojevich could get at least 10 years behind bars. The government is asking for 15 to 20 years.

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