Blagojevich reports to Colo. prison

March 15, 2012 8:17:32 PM PDT
Former Ill. governor Rod Blagojevich arrived at a federal prison near Denver Thursday to begin his 14-year sentence.

Blagojevich was convicted on corruption charges last June.

He walked into the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood just before 1 p.m. Central Time carrying a backpack belonging to his daughter, presumably so his attorneys who accompanied him could carry his clothes back home. Blagojevich is only allowed to keep his wedding band. Everything else must go back home.

He also had papers and a few items in the backpack, which he read through on the plane.

The former governor and two of his attorneys arrived at the prison with time to spare. Then they drove right by it, turned the corner and headed north on a navigationally-challenged journey. They turned around, came back, drove by the prison again, saying later that a dead phone battery had scuttled their GPS efforts. The ride was followed by media chase cars and a helicopter in tow.

They wound up stopping at Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers for a bite to eat. After talking on the phone, Blagojevich went inside and did what he always does -- work the crowd.

No one, certainly not the diners in the burger joint, could have guessed that the man doing the glad-handing was about to start a 14-year prison sentence.

"I keep thinking about a place, like a military thing that I am reporting to do military service," Blagojevich told ABC7. "It is a little game I play with myself. The sad reality is that's a prison."

He didn't eat during his pre-prison lunch stop but said again, as he has over the last two days, that he remains positive, that there is a higher purpose, and that he must remain strong for his family.

"You handle it in the best way that serves them and gives them the toughness to go through a tough oftentimes painful world and to show them this will make them stronger," he said.

With his lunch message over and the prison waiting - but with no hard deadline - the ex- governor got back in the car, and with fresh directions and no way they could miss a media encampment outside the prison, they found their way.

At about 12:50 p.m. Central Time, Blagojevich walked up to the main door of the prison, his new low-security home, and went inside -- no more crowds to work.

Blagojevich's flight left O'Hare International Airport for Denver just before 8 a.m. He traveled on a typical commuter flight, American Airlines Flight 3612 out of Gate H2. He went through a TSA screening like everyone else, though he did get moved to the front of the line.

Blagojevich will be prisoner number 40892424, the last three digits indicating that he is from the Northern District of Illinois. He will be given menial tasks and several tours throughout the day at the prison, which is located in an unincorporated area 15 miles southwest of Denver. Blagojevich could share a cell with up to three other inmates.

His defense team is filing an appeal, saying Blagojevich didn't intend to commit the crimes for which he is convicted. Attorneys also say the phone recordings that the defense wanted to be played in court were improperly blocked by the judge.

"I am proud as I leave and enter the next part of what is a dark, hard journey that I can take with me the sense of accomplishment and the real belief that the things that I did as governor and the things I did as congressman actually helped real ordinary people," Blagojevich said Wednesday during a final public goodbye. His wife Patti and youngest daughter stood by him as a crowd of well-wishers expressed their support.