It's hard to feel sympathy for disgraced politician Rod Blagojevich, a man known for loving money and the spotlight long before his legal troubles. But there is one particularly heartbreaking element to the former Illinois governor’s impeachment and conviction: the wife and children he left behind.
Rod is currently five-plus years into a 14-year sentence for crimes that led to his removal from office and arrest, including soliciting bribes for political appointments. The Democratic politician had served six years in office as governor from 2003 to 2009. In the half-decade he’s been behind bars, he’s filed multiple appeals, and continues to maintain his innocence. Just last month, his lawyers filed a petition pleading for a review by the Supreme Court — likely his last chance to secure a release prior to the one scheduled in 2024.
This marks a critical decision for his wife Patti and their daughters, Amy, 21, and Annie Blagojevich, 14, who have been through a lot since the 61-year-old reported to federal prison. After her husband’s 2008 arrest, Patti was fired from her high-paying job as a fundraiser for a Chicago homeless agency. She also put her work as a real estate agent on hold while investigators dug into her business and its potential connection to her husband’s politics.
Because of that, money has been an issue for the family. In 2014, Patti helped her father, former Chicago alderman Dick Mell, launch a lobbying firm. Dick explained at the time that the new venture would keep him busy after retirement, while also providing financial support for his daughter and granddaughters. The former Illinois First Lady’s role at the firm was listed as an “agent” overseeing paperwork — not a lobbyist. She’s seemingly balanced that gig with a return to the real estate business, in which she works as a managing broker.
As for their children, Amy currently attends college at Northwestern University, while Annie is in high school, and has developed an interest in history and classical music. Both girls are close with their father, whom they call a "friend, confidant, and cheerleader,” and he still contacts them regularly to check in. However, visits are scarce given that his prison is in Denver.
The family remains hopeful that the judge might show some leniency towards Rod. Patti’s sister writes, "The circumstances surrounding Rod’s indictment, trial, and eventual sentencing has devastated the lives of my sister and their two beautiful children. His absence left a huge void within the family. With each passing graduation, Christmas morning, and dance recital, the people he loves most in this world have had to learn to carry on without him. All that is left is a faint memory of a happier time."
Patti Blagojevich says Rod's sentence unusually cruel. pic.twitter.com/c2Diq3mqmo
— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) August 9, 2016
Patti has also spoken about how Rod’s absence has impacted her and her children's lives. “This has been an absolutely grueling process. I am without my husband. My daughters are without their dad. And Rod is alone away from all of us,” she explained recently. “My sincere hope is that the supreme court will finally right this wrong and bring my husband home to his family where he belongs.”