(CBS/AP) CHICAGO - Convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich left his Ravenswood Manor home early Thursday morning and hopped in a car headed for a federal prison cell in Colorado.
Blagojevich, wearing a dark shirt, sports coat and jeans, had trouble making his way through a crowd of photographers, reporters and well-wishers shortly after 6 a.m. Neither his wife Patti, who has proclaimed his innocence, nor his daughters, accompanied him to the car.
"Saying goodbye is the hardest thing I've ever had to do," he said. "I'm leaving with a heavy heart, a clear conscience and I have high, high hopes for the future."
Supporters were outside the former governor's house yelling encouragement. "We'll be praying for you, we'll take care of your family," some shouted.
About 40 minutes later, Blagojevich could be seen going through security at O'Hare International Airport. His flight was scheduled to take off later in the morning.
When Blagojevich walks into prison Thursday, he will become the state's second former governor in federal prison, joining George Ryan, who was also convicted of corruption charges.
The one-time golden boy of Illinois politics with a penchant for television cameras is expected to report to a Colorado prison by 2 p.m. to begin his 14-year prison term on corruption charges, becoming Inmate No. 40892-424.
Jurors convicted Blagojevich on 18 counts, including charges that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat. FBI wiretaps revealed a fouled-mouth Blagojevich describing the opportunity to exchange an appointment to the seat for campaign cash or a top job as "f------ golden."