Disgraced Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Opens Up About Life in Prison, Shows No Remorse

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

Five years into his prison sentence, Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois Governor who tried to sell Barack Obama’s senate seat and was impeached for multiple corruption charges, has given his first set of interviews since he landed in a minimum-security prison in Colorado. The profile is fascinating, bordering on ridiculous, for two reasons: it offers up an incredibly detailed prison regimen for one of the most notorious white collar criminals of the early 2000s, while simultaneously demonstrating how sorry Blagojevich and his wife feel for themselves, with a stunning absence of any guilt, wrongdoing, or responsibility.


This quote sums it up well:

“Extreme heat, drenched in sweat, with no air movement, scores of angry men, snoring and other bad, unpleasant sounds—I remember moaning to myself, ‘How the “f” did I end up here?’ ”

Practically anyone who read the news in 2011 in America remembers how “the f” Blagojevich ended up in jail. He was found guilty on 17 public corruption charges, including wire fraud, attempted extortion, and bribery; sentenced to 14 years in prison, and barred from ever practicing law or holding public office again in Illinois. How the f would he not end up there?

The profile, a result of multiple telephone interviews and emails with Blagojevich along with a series of interviews with his wife, Patti, portrays his his life in prison as expectedly monotonous and lonely. Missing from the lengthy piece, however, is any reflection on the crimes that landed Blagojevich in prison. “Maybe I had too much pride,” he said in one of his rare introspective moments. “I know I could’ve been more humble. I could’ve been less combative.” In fact, Blagojevich maintains his innocence and plans to appeal his case all the way to the Supreme Court if he has to. “I still believe, ultimately, we’ll prevail,” he says.

The rest of the profile focuses on his routine, including his social life (he’s in a band) and lack thereof. A point of regret, for example, includes not being able to watch the World Series with his daughter:

There have been heartbreaking moments, such as during last year’s World Series. Blagojevich is a die-hard Cubs fan, and the team had long been something he and his older daughter, Amy, bonded over. So Patti bought Amy a ticket to Denver so she could watch game 3 with her dad. One problem: The correctional officer in charge that month of the camp’s cafeteria—which doubles as the visiting area—had a no-TV policy. Recalls Patti: “Rod even went to him—because I had already bought the ticket—and asked him, you know, ‘My daughter bought a ticket, she wants to watch the game with me.’ Nope! Not gonna turn the TV on.” Amy wound up staying home.


And the fact that his new prison friends keep leaving him:

Yet Blagojevich has made several close friends. At the low-security facility, one buddy was Beverly Hills real estate developer Charles Elliott Fitzgerald, whom the Los Angeles Times called the “architect of one of the largest real estate frauds in California history.” But Fitzgerald, who is serving 14 years for bilking mortgage lenders out of more than $40 million, has since been transferred to another prison. There have been other inmates Blagojevich befriended who have since been released. Says [wife] Patti: “What’s so frustrating to him is that people leave and he’s stuck there. So it’s hard to make friends because everybody’s got a shorter sentence.”


At the very least, though, Blagojevich has a sense of humor about the fact that he now spends his days cleaning prison hallways:

“My jurisdiction was once all of the State of Illinois. Now I’ve got two hallways to clean,” he says. “I feel like I was a very good governor, and now I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job on those floors.” He recalls that his first job, at age 9, was as a shoeshine boy. “I was making more money then than I’m making as a 60-year-old former governor with a college degree and a law degree.”


“I’ve come to see the object of life is to do God’s will,” he says, having immersed himself in the teachings of the Bible. “So I’m putting my trust in God and whatever his plan is for me.”

Read the rest of the profile here.

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.


Queen Bea

Rod is my neighbor, or at least he was before he became a guest of the state. He had the annoying habit of stopping to say hi to literally every human being he met in the neighborhood while he jogged, which sounds folksy af but the reality was more like “Oh great, there’s the governor and he’s all sweaty and gross again and now we have to make small talk.” His hair was always perfect, though, even after an obviously gross jog.

The whole neighborhood hated him before he brought a nonstop media circus to the neighborhood and they REALLY hate him now. (You should see the signs his next door neighbor used to put up for his opponents. Rod must have never given back his weed whacker or something.)