CHICAGO – Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wife are trying to sell their Chicago home that once served as Illinois' de facto governor's mansion, his attorneys revealed Friday, as the couple scrambles to raise money before he goes to prison for corruption.
At the court hearing, Blagojevich also stood before Judge James Zagel and said he fully understood that the government could end up seizing their home of more than a decade if he tried to flee or otherwise violates the conditions of his $450,000 bond.
Asked by the judge if he understood the consequences of a violation, which could also include going to straight to jail to await sentencing, the impeached governor responded, "Yes, your honor. I have no intention of violating the terms."
Blagojevich and his wife Patti Blagojevich, who worked for years as a real estate agent, have begun trying to sell their spacious home on a leafy Chicago street, defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky told TV cameras later.
"So if anyone's watching this and is interested in a nice house . . . contact the Blagojeviches," he said.
The court appearance was Blagojevich's first since a jury convicted him last month on 17 of 20 corruption counts, including attempted extortion for trying to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat President Barack Obama vacated to become president.
Blagojevich, 54, kept his tone serious when speaking to Zagel. But he looked at ease waiting for the proceedings to begin, smiling and signing his autograph in a yearbook one spectator handed to him.
The Blagojevich home, where the couple lives with their two children, was the place where FBI wiretaps captured Blagojevich talking about profiting by naming someone to Obama's old Senate seat; it's also where federal agents woke the then-governor at dawn on Dec. 9, 2008, and led him away in handcuffs.
A few years ago, the county estimated the home's value at around $700,000.
Blagojevich also had to put up a second property to secure the bond — a condo in Washington, D.C. Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein said each property had about $300,000 in equity, meaning the Blagojeviches could pocket $600,000 if they sold both.
Before the end of Blagojevich's retrial, prosecutors had indicated they could seize both properties as part of sanctions if jurors convicted him. But after the verdict last month, they dropped those provisions, opening the way for the couple to put the Chicago home up for sale.
The Blagojeviches bought the home in 1999, when he was a U.S. congressman. During his six years as governor, Blagojevich never moved to the official governor's mansion in Springfield. He remained instead in his political power base of Chicago, which angered some residents elsewhere in the state. He often conducted state business from his home office, with its fireplace and vast book collection, rather than going to his office in downtown Chicago.
Blagojevich does not yet have a sentencing date. He's expected to receive around a ten-year prison term in total for the recent convictions and for the lone conviction at his first trial last year of lying to the FBI.
His imprisonment could pose financial hardships for his family, which selling the house could help alleviate.
Blagojevich used up the last of his liquid funds to pay his lawyers for his first trial. Since then, taxpayers have footed his legal bill. In prison, his only income would derive from menial jobs, possibly scrubbing toilets or floors, at a starting wage of 12 cents an hour.
As he left the courthouse Friday, Blagojevich did not answer questions from reporters about the sale of the house. He made a brief statement that, "Patti and I were here to comply, as we always try to do with all the different rules, and we signed all the necessary papers."
That was a reference to prosecutors' complaint that Blagojevich had failed to promptly turn in all the paperwork officially putting up the two properties as collateral, documents which included title reports, appraisals and mortgage statements. Defense attorneys said Friday all the papers were now in.