CHICAGO (AP) – Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will have one extra month of freedom before he starts a 14-year prison sentence for a series of corruption charges, a federal judge said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel agreed to let Blagojevich report to prison March 15. The former governor had been previously ordered to begin serving his sentence Feb. 16.
Zagel also agreed to recommend that Blagojevich be sent to the Englewood low-security federal prison facility in Littleton, Colo. Federal prison officials have the final say on where Blagojevich will be placed.
Blagojevich’s attorneys asked for the extra time before he reports because they said he expected to sell his family’s home in Chicago soon. The home has been on the market for several months, and its listing price was recently reduced.
They said Blagojevich wanted to help his family move into a new home before he goes to prison.
Blagojevich’s attorneys would not say why he wanted to go to a prison about 1,000 miles away from Chicago. His predecessor, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who was convicted of racketeering and fraud, is serving his sentence in nearby Terre Haute, Ind.
Blagojevich’s attorney Sheldon Sorosky would only say that the former governor made the decision. “That was his personal choice,” Sorosky said. “I don’t know why he chose it.”
Normally, prison officials try to place inmates within 500 miles of their family to make visits easier, Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.
Sorosky said the family had “absolutely no plans” to move to Colorado if Blagojevich is sent there.
Burke said federal prison officials would not disclose where Blagojevich is headed until he arrives at prison.
Blagojevich, who turned 55 on Dec. 10, was convicted of 18 counts, including charges that he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama for campaign cash or a high-paying job. Blagojevich was also convicted of trying to shake down hospital and racetrack executives for campaign donations, and of lying to the FBI.
Zagel gave Blagojevich a sentence close to the 15 to 20 years sought by prosecutors. Blagojevich’s attorneys asked for a lesser sentence, and he repeatedly apologized at his sentencing hearing for what he called “terrible mistakes.”
“I caused it all. I’m not blaming anybody,” Blagojevich said in court. “I was the governor and I should have known better and I am just so incredibly sorry.”
According to federal rules, felons must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence a judge imposes, meaning that Blagojevich wouldn’t be eligible for early release until he serves nearly 12 years.
– By Nomaan Merchant, AP Writer
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)