Rod Blagojevich, the ousted Illinois governor whose three-year battle against criminal charges became a national spectacle, was sentenced to 14 years in prison today, one of the stiffest penalties imposed for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics. "When it is the governor who goes bad the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired," said Judge James Zagel. Blagojevich's 18 convictions included trying to leverage his power to appoint someone to President Obama's vacated Senate seat in exchange for campaign cash or a high-paying job.
Blagojevich, in a last plea for mercy, tried something he never had before: an apology. After years of insisting he was innocent, he told the judge he'd made "terrible mistakes" and acknowledged that he broke the law. "I'm here convicted of crimes," he said, "and I am accepting of it, I acknowledge it and I of course am unbelievably sorry for it." But Zagel gave him little leeway. "Whatever good things you did for people as governor, and you did some, I am more concerned with the occasions when you wanted to use your powers when you wanted to do things that were only good for yourself."