On Last Day Free, Blagojevich Offers Last Word
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
On his last full day of freedom, Rod Blagojevich gave a statement to reporters in front of his home on Chicago's North side.
Blagojevich first thanked people for their support over the last three years. He said the citizens of Illinois elected him twice to be governor of the state. He called that a privilege and an honor.
Blagojevich said he fought hard for the people during his time as governor and listed some key legislation that passed during his term. He faulted himself for possibly fighting too hard and not "having more humility."
The ex-governor paused as supporters chanted, "Free our governor," before turning his statement to address his wife Patti and his two daughters. He called going to prison the hardest thing he'd ever have to do.
"How do you make sense of all of this? What do you tell your children?" he asked.
Blagojevich regretted that he would be away from his daughters for more than a decade.
"It's hard for me to say that I have to go to prison. That's a hard word for me to say," he said.
His wife Patti stood by his side during the entire statement, trying to hold back tears. The ex-governor praised her for standing by his side and being a "great mom."
After his statement, Blagojevich didn't take any questions and the family returned to their home.
The 55-year-old Democrat is due to report to a prison in Colorado on Thursday to begin serving a 14-year sentence. He was convicted of 18 criminal counts during two trials, including charges that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.
More than 50 reporters crowded onto the street near the former Illinois governor's home as television helicopters hovered overhead.
Neighbors and supporters hung a banner over the railing of Blagojevich's home that read, "Thanks Mr. Governor. We will pray."
Current Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters Wednesday the state is a much better place than it was on January 29th, 2009, the day Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office.
"We're going to have two governors, two former governors, in jail at the same time. That's something that we never, ever want to have happen," Quinn said. "And I think that it's important that the people of Illinois, who are good and true, always come out first."
Quinn said he wishes Blagojevich's family well.
Blagojevich had announced he'd make the statement starting precisely at 5:02 p.m., which enabled prime time news to lead with his remarks. Attorneys for the ousted Illinois governor say he wants to depart in a dignified way, without a media frenzy. That fueled speculation he'd try to slip out of Chicago undetected, but his spokesman says Blagojevich never entertained that idea.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)