By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Wednesday, Dec. 7. The impeached governor had already been convicted on 18 counts of corruption, including an attempt to gain by auctioning off President Obama’s former seat in the U.S. Senate. Another scheme involved soliciting political campaign contributions in exchange for toll road contracts.
Blagojevich reportedly asked for mercy prior to the sentencing, but U.S. District Judge James Zagel told him his apology for “terrible mistakes” was too late.
“The governor was not marched along the criminal path by his staff,” Zagel said during the proceedings, as reported by Reuters. “He marched them and ruined a few of their careers.”
In addition to the scandal surrounding the U.S. Senate seat, Blagojevich stood accused in 2008 of soliciting $500,000 in campaign contributions from a cement company in exchange for a $1.8 billion contract to build high-occupancy toll lanes, also known as the “green lanes” project, within the Illinois Tollway system.
Truckers knew Blagojevich as the governor who repeatedly vetoed bills that would have ended dangerous split-speed limits for cars and trucks in Illinois. Truckers eventually won uniform speeds after Blagojevich was impeached by the General Assembly. His successor, Gov. Pat Quinn, did away with split speeds shortly after taking office in 2009.
Blagojevich continued to stay in the spotlight after his arrest and impeachment. The embattled politician even tried his hand as a reality-TV star, appearing on “Celebrity Apprentice” with Donald Trump.
And what happened to the so-called green lanes? The scope of that project continues to be modified by the Illinois Tollway Authority. The Authority continues to work on congestion-relief projects involving interstates 90, 94, 294 and 57, but does not refer to them as “green lanes” or associate them in any way with the impeached governor.
Blagojevich turns 55 on Sunday. The judge said he must serve at least 12 years of the 14-year sentence.
He won’t be the only Illinois governor in prison, either. Former Gov. George Ryan is serving a six-and-a-half year sentence on a separate set of corruption charges. The indictment against Ryan included a scheme in which unqualified truckers obtained CDLs in exchange for bribes while Ryan was Illinois Secretary of State. He was found guilty in 2006.
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