CHICAGO - Stunned and nearly speechless after hearing the verdicts against him, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will wake up Tuesday to the stark reality that he is likely headed to federal prison within months, leaving behind his wife, two young daughters and comfortable home in a leafy Chicago neighborhood.
A jury convicted him Monday on 17 charges, including trying to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat and attempting to shake down executives for campaign cash. The convictions carry a combined maximum prison sentence of around 300 years, but legal experts say a federal judge is likely to send him away for around a decade, give or take a few years.
An irrepressible Blagojevich had said before the retrial began that he refused to even contemplate the prospect of prison. But red-eyed, his face drawn and frowning, he hurried out of the courthouse after the verdict was read.
The broke and impeached ex-governor told reporters that he and his wife, Patti, "have to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out." His two daughters are 8 and 14.
Uncharacteristically, the 54-year-old Democrat had little more to say, adding only that he was stunned by the verdict.
"Well, among the many lessons I've learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less, so I'm going to keep my remarks kind of short," Blagojevich said.
He is almost certain to appeal the convictions, and his defense attorneys filed a number of motions to lay the groundwork for that.
If he does end up in prison, Blagojevich would follow a path well-trodden by Illinois governors, including Blagojevich's predecessor, former Republican Gov. George Ryan now serving 6½ years in a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.
In Illinois's book of political infamy, though, Blagojevich's chapter may go down as the most ignominious because of the allegations he effectively tried to hock an appointment to Obama's Senate seat for campaign cash or a job.
Blagojevich will probably receive around 10 years in prison, with little chance he would get more than 15, said former Chicago-based federal prosecutor Jeff Cramer said. Another former prosecutor, Phil Turner, said Judge James Zagel might look to Ryan's sentence and mete out a similar one for Blagojevich.
Zagel did not set a sentencing date, but Gal Pissetzky, a Chicago attorney who defends clients in federal court, said it's likely Blagojevich would be sentenced late this year. When he is, Pissetzky said there is a chance he could end up serving in the same prison as George Ryan.
The verdict, coming after his first trial ended last year with the jury deadlocked on most charges, was a bitter defeat for Blagojevich, who spent 2½ years professing his innocence on reality TV shows and later on the witness stand. His defense team insisted that hours of FBI wiretap recordings were just the ramblings of a politician who liked to think out loud.
After hearing the verdict, Blagojevich turned to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky and asked "What happened?" His wife, Patti, slumped against her brother, then rushed into her husband's arms.
Before the decision was read, the couple looked flushed, and the former governor blew his wife a kiss across the courtroom, then stood expressionless, with his hands clasped tightly.