Just before noon on Thursday, former flamboyant ex-governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich walked into the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in Littleton, Colorado, but not before “glad-handing” one last time.
Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich began a 14-year sentence for corruption on Thursday, but not before he made once last media stop and chatted it up with local high school students and others at Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers in Littleton, Colorado. The former reality show contestant didn’t appear to be in any hurry to report to prison.
The 55-year-old Blagojevich, whose every move was broadcast from the time he boarded his plane in Chicago to the time he departed in Denver, made the most of the media circus following him. On Wednesday evening, he invited the media to his home in Chicago for one last public statement. As in earlier statements, Blagojevich claimed his innocence, stating that he always believed what he did while he was governor of Illinois was legal, and that the truth would eventually prevail.
Blagojevich was indicted on 18 counts, including charges that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich, known for “talking big,” was caught in his own words, however, when FBI wiretaps recorded him stating that he was willing to sell or exchange the Senate seat for cash or for a “top job,” which he described as “f—– golden.” Additionally, the former governor was also convicted of shaking down racetrack and hospital officials for campaign donations and lying to the FBI. Although he was sentenced in December, Blagojevich was given three months to report to prison; time he spent saying “good-bye” to his wife and daughters.
Once in Colorado, Blagojevich was driven straight to the prison from the airport. The black SUV carrying the former governor of Illinois and his entourage, however, circled the correctional facility several times before departing and ending up at Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers in Littleton. Once inside, Blagojevich ordered a couple of patty melts and some fries, and seized the opportunity to chat it up with a group of locals, including students from nearby Chatfield High School.
After explaining who he was to the students, Blagojevich shared some of his food with them and posed for photos. Many of the students were unfamiliar with Blagojevich, and several went online to look him up. After realizing who he was and that he was on his way to prison, they were surprised by his cool demeanor and almost jovial behavior.
Upon finishing his meal and some final “glad-handing,” Blagojevich left Freddy’s and headed back to the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood, where he walked in just before noon and traded his finely tailored suit for a khaki prison uniform.
Blagojevich requested the low-security facility in Littleton, just outside Denver, for several reasons. One is that it is close to an airport, making it accessible to his family. Another is that it is supposedly safer than other federal prisons, with fewer fights and gang problems. Finally, for a man who loved and made the most of the media, it appears he may be trying to avoid Chicago media scrutiny. Blagojevich will be sharing a cell with up to three other inmates.
Blagojevich was the second governor of Illinois in a row to be convicted and sent to federal prison. It was Blagojevich’s “big talk” and flamboyant, “Chicago-style” politics that garnered him the governorship in Illinois. In the end, though, it was that same big talk and misbehavin’ that earned him a trip to Colorado and federal prison. Does the former governor have any regrets? Perhaps his departing words to the high school students at Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers offer some insight, when he told them to “stay out of politics.”
Link to final story on GCN:
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