-- In his first public appearance since checking into a Colorado federal prison in 2012, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appeared via a video link before a federal court today, nearly eight years after being arrested on charges that made his name synonymous with government corruption.
His 14-year sentence, however, was ultimately upheld.
Blagojevich appeared before the court wearing a Navy blue prison outfit, his once obsessively groomed head of dark hair now turned a grandfatherly white, and wept when his daughters took the stand to speak on his behalf.
He apologized and told the court that he regrets "mistakes and misjudgments" he's made in the past.
Defense attorney Melissa Matuzak read aloud excerpts of letters penned by fellow inmates on Blagojevich's behalf.
The re-sentencing hearing of Blagojevich, which featured an attempt on the part of his defense team to reduce his 14-year sentence to five years for good behavior, represented a stark change from the defiance he showed when news of his corruption scandal first broke in 2008.
Among the causes that lead to Blagojevich's original conviction was the charge that he sought to exchange an appointment to Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat in exchange for campaign money.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, has been a resident of the Federal Correctional Institution, Englewood, near Littleton, Colorado, since March 15 of 2012, where he is known as Inmate No. 40892-424. His date for expected release remains 2024, factoring in two years of credit for good behavior.
The disgraced governor rose to fame in part because of his penchant for sartorial flamboyance, larger-than-life persona, and an apparent eagerness to perform for the camera. He became known through tabloids by the mononym "Blago," and the Chicago Tribune reported that inmates inside of the prison refer to him simply as "Gov."
In 2009, he appeared on NBC's "The Apprentice," a reality TV show hosted by 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, alongside tenured reality show performers like Sharon Osborne and Bret Michaels.
Blagojevich fronted a prison band called “The Jailhouse Rockers,” named after the Elvis Presley song, which was dissolved after the lead guitarist was released, according to The Associated Press. The band was used by his defense team as an example of his good behavior during the appeal to no avail.
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who presided over today's appeal, was the judge who originally sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison in 2011.
He issued memorably harsh words to him then that condemned the culture of corruption he oversaw as governor of the state of Illinois.
"When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily or quickly repaired. You did that damage," Zagel told Blagojevich in 2011.
Blagojevich's wife Patti addressed Zagel in a letter that begged for leniency, according to a report by the AP, saying "please let Rod come home."
"I am pleading with you, indeed begging you, to please be merciful," she wrote.