Blagojevich Still Defiant As 14-Year Sentence Awaits

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich spoke to reporters Wednesday evening, a day before heading to prison to start a 14-year stay. Convicted on corruption charges last year, Blagojevich did not offer an apology. Rather, he vowed to continue to fight the case by appealing.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR news, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel.

One last day of freedom, one last time before cameras and microphones. Former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich reports to a federal prison tomorrow to begin serving a 14-year sentence for corruption. But before leaving, he stepped outside his Chicago home today to make a public statement.

NPR's David Schaper is in Chicago and he joins us. David, before we consider this moment, this is the fourth Illinois governor heading off to prison in as many decades. Remind us of why Blagojevich is going there. This was a remarkable case.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Yeah, Rob Blagojevich was elected on a campaign platform of reform after the governor before him was under investigation. Actually, George Ryan is still serving a prison sentence right now. He was arrested in the early before-dawn hours by the FBI in December of 2008 for what the U.S. attorney here said at the time was a political corruption crime spree. He said that Blagojevich was running amok in the statehouse. He was ultimately convicted of 18 corruption charges, mostly notably for trying to auction off the U.S. Senate seat that had just been vacated by the election of President Obama.

The conviction also included charges of trying to shake down people who wanted to do business with his administration and with the state for pretty significant campaign contributions.

BLOCK: Now, even after he was arrested, Blogojevich didn't shy away from media attention. He went on television talk shows, reality shows, he did a book tour. All the while, he proclaimed his innocence. And today, what did he say?

SCHAPER: Well, you know, it's interesting because he had been this defiant, almost cocky ex-governor and, you know, politician to the end, all during the trials that he was going through. And then when he was sentenced, he was much more subdued, much more apologetic. Today, he was back to being the same as always, a politician to the end, eager to get in front of this huge onslaught of cameras and microphones and supporters outside of his house. This is being just hours before he goes off to prison.

And one of the things he did at the outset, after thanking all of his supporters and those who have written him letters and sent him bibles and things like that, is that he starting touting his accomplishments from his time as governor.

ROB BLOGOJEVICH: I am proud as I leave and enter the next part of what is a dark and hard journey, that I can take with me the sense of accomplishment, the real belief that the things I did as governor and the things I did as Congressman have actually helped real, ordinary people.

SCHAPER: And it was just a crazy scene, Robert. There was just all kinds of people who had come out to support him; people circulating petitions to try to get President Obama to vacate his sentence or give him some sort of pardon already.

SIEGEL: We should point out that the former governor will not get to stay in Illinois. He's reporting to prison in Colorado.

SCHAPER: Right. He's going to a low-security prison in Littleton, Colorado, about 15 miles southwest of Denver. But those who have been to prison before - I talked to a couple of former Illinois politicians who have done time and they say forget about any notion that this is going to be a country club prison or a Club Fed. They say that the prison is prison. The food is bad, sanitary conditions poor, the labor hard. And getting through the first couple of days is going to be the toughest time for the former governor.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, David.

SCHAPER: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's David Schaper in Chicago.

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