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Update from Colorado as Former Governor Gets Ready for Prison

The governor's youngest daughter peers through a blind while her father gives a farewell press conference in front of their house on Wednesday. (Photo by William Mullican for ChicagoTalks)

Convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ate a double patty melt, his last meal as a free man, before entering prison today.

He visited Freddy’s Frozen Custard in Littleton, Colorodo, just before entering Englewood Federal Correctional Institution.

“He seemed in good spirits,” Josh Andreakos, Freddy’s general manager, said in a telephone interview.

Andreakos said Blagojevich shook hands with patrons of the burger and ice cream palor. He sat at a table in the corner to give interviews to reporters seeking his last words before becoming inmate 40892-424, Andreakos said, adding, “I didn’t see what the big deal was.”

In the last ten years, two Illinois governors have been convicted for federal corruption. Blagojevich was convicted on 18 counts, including charges of trying to sell or trade the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President Barack Obama.  Former Governor George Ryan, also known as Federal inmate 16627-424 is serving a six and a half year prison sentence in a Federal Correctional Complex, Terra Haute, Indiana.

Blagojevich arrived at the prison at around 12:45. He will be subjected to a strip search, medial work, a shared jail cell, and multiple roll calls to remind him of, in his words, “humble” existence.

Blagojevich took to the media this morning in a last interview. He said, “”Saying goodbye is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he told reporters before he left for the airport. “I’m leaving with a heavy heart, a clear conscience, but I have high, high hopes for the future. Among the hopes is that you guys go home and our neighbors can get their neighborhood back. I’ll see you guys when I see ya. I’ll see you around.”

Back in Chicago, where Blagojevich lived in Ravenswood Manor with his wife Patti and two daughters Amy and Anne, residents of his neighborhood are glad to see him go.

“He’s getting his just desserts,” said Nette Huff, a Ravesnswood resident. “I bet you people that live next door are sick of seeing the media coverage.”

Peter Keres, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he’s “done” with the former governor.

Keres said he doesn’t deserve the publicity he’s received in the days before he went to prison.

“It’s pathetic,” he said.

A pedestrian watches coverage of the former governor's farewell press coonference on Wednesday at the Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. (Photo by Colin Hill)

Jon Ziomek, a professor emeritus at Northwestern University, pointed out that Blagojevich’s Republican opponent in 2006, Judy Barr Topinka, was, like him, an alumnus of Northwestern University. “So there may be a person or two at Medill singing an ‘I told you so’ song these days,” Ziomek said

Mandy Calcun, a sales worker at a store near the Daley Plaza, said Blagojevich’s prison sentence, is “setting precedence and making sure no one does this again.

Nevertheless, many Chicago residents said that justice has been served. Although Blagojevich will be away from his family, he serves as an example for future governors, they said.

Scott Jurgerson, University of Illinois at Chicago student, said Blagojevich is a good talker, but he can’t believe anything he says.

“You want to know that the guy your voting for is not corrupt,” Jurgerson said.

Political accountability for Illinois has faced ethical turmoil. “I’m happy he is getting locked up,” said Daria Dziedzic, s University of Illinois student.

According to the United States Beareau of Prisons, the prison where the former governor will serve is a low security facility housing male offenders.  The institution also has an administrative detention center and an adjacent satellite prison camp for minimum-security male offenders. FCI Englewood is located 15 miles southwest of Denver, off U.S. Highway 285 and South Kipling Street.

As evidenced by all of the autograph-seekers as Blagojevich left Chicago, he still had a fair number of supporters.

David Schnieder, a Ravenswood resident, said the former governor was set up.
“I think he was just trying to get his people into power,” he said from the neighborhood. “It’s all politics as usual.

Gwendolyn King, a retired AT&T employee, said the sentence was unfair.

It was a victimless crime and he didn’t even get a penny out of it,” she said.

Map by Austin Montgomery








Tina Spentzos, Colin Hill, Tianna Rosa, Tim Shaunnessey, Austin Montgomery contributed to this report.



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