A contrite Rod Blagojevich sought to get his sentence for corruption in Illinois reduced to five years.

CHICAGO — A federal judge refused Tuesday to lighten Rod Blagojevich’s original 14-year prison sentence for corruption, rejecting pleas for lenience by the now white-haired former Illinois governor who attended the resentencing hearing by video from a Colorado prison a thousand miles away.

Blagojevich, 59, was eligible for resentencing after an appeals court last year threw out several convictions related to his alleged attempt to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.

A somber, contrite Blagojevich spoke for 20 minutes in a sometimes apologetic, sometimes rambling statement before U.S. District Judge James Zagel announced the sentence, telling the court he understood he made mistakes.

“I wish I could turn back the clock and make different choices,” said Blagojevich, who didn’t use notes. “These have been hard years.”

Zagel said that even though the appeals court threw out five of the 18 counts against the former governor, the remaining ones still justified the original sentence. The appeals court said in its ruling last year that Blagojevich wasn’t necessarily entitled to a lower sentence, adding that the 14-year term fell below what federal guidelines recommended.


As the judge announced his decision, Blagojevich could be seen on screen bowing his head. In the courtroom, his two daughters sobbed, the younger one placing her head on her mother, Patti’s, shoulder.

The one-time contestant on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show wanted to sharply reduce his sentence to just five years, which would have meant him going free within months. Instead, with the 14-year term reaffirmed, his projected release date remains 2024, which includes two years’ credit for good behavior.

Zagel said he went through more than 100 letters from fellow prisoners. Many portrayed Blagojevich – known as brash in his days as governor – as humble and self-effacing, as well as an insightful life coach and lecturer on everything from the Civil War to Richard Nixon.

But Zagel said they had not seen the same evidence jurors saw of Blagojevich’s corruption.

Defense lawyers said Blagojevich has been a model prisoner.

Zagel told Tuesday’s hearing that Blagojevich’s exemplary behavior behind bars wasn’t relevant to deciding on an appropriate punishment.


The resentencing marked Blagojevich’s first appearance in a public forum since entering prison.

Blagojevich was famously fastidious about his dark hair as governor, but it went all white because hair dyes are banned in prison. He sat in a chair during the hearing in prison garb with a nametag with his Inmate No. 40892-424 on his shirt. The avid runner who has continued to exercise behind bars looked fit.

Subdued for much of the two-hour hearing, Blagojevich wiped tears from his eyes when his daughters, 13-year-old Annie and 20-year-old Amy, made statements in court.

Prosecutors urged Zagel to impose the same 14-year prison term – one of the stiffest sentences for corruption in Illinois history.

Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, told reporters outside court that the resentencing was “cruel and heartless and unfair.”

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