For constituents familiar with the brash way he governed Illinois, it comes as no surprise that Rod Blagojevich wants to make one last statement to the public before he leaves his family and reports this week to serve 14 years in prison.
The former governor's lawyers say he wants to go out with dignity. But that may be difficult in front of the television cameras he so adored as a politician that likely will illuminate his every step from his bungalow in Chicago's Northwest Side to the gate of the Colorado prison he requested.
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Who will stand with him when he speaks to the media Wednesday as promised? Will he offer contrition, as he did before his sentencing judge? Or will he again profess his innocence, as he did through his two trials and as his wife, Patti, did for him in a televised interview in recent days?
Will he make one last stop before reporting for prison Thursday at a favorite haunt, just as his predecessor, George Ryan, stopped at a pancake house for coffee on his way to prison in 2007?
"These last few days -- they are the hardest of all," said Jim Laski, a former Chicago city clerk who was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption in 2006. "You feel helpless. You think about prison 24/7. You can't sleep."
Since his December sentencing on 18 counts that included trying to sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, Blagojevich hasn't granted interviews and his attorneys say he wants to avoid a media frenzy. But the man soon to be identified as federal prisoner No. 40892-424 plans to step outside his home Wednesday to address the media. His publicist said he never planned to slip away undetected.
Spokesman Glenn Selig offered few hints about what Blagojevich could say, explaining only that, "He has truly enjoyed being out in public. He never considered `sneaking' out of Chicago and miss an opportunity to say goodbye."
Blagojevich, a 55-year-old father of two daughters, used his rhetorical skills to help win one term as a congressman and two as Illinois governor. After his arrest in 2008, the Democrat turned to those same skills to persistently declare his innocence on the national talk-show circuit, but in the end they couldn't help him persuade a jury when he took the witness stand during his retrial.
The former governor could tear a page from a well-worn book on how former Illinois governors spent their last days before prison. Four of the state's last nine governors served time after convictions.
Ryan, Blagojevich's Republican predecessor, made a public statement in 2007, also one day before he was due to begin serving a 6½-year sentence after being convicted on corruption charges that he always denied.
"It would've been easy over the course of these years to fold under the unrelenting pressure and enter into a plea bargain that would've spared my family a lot of pain," Ryan said into bright cameras lights. "But such a plea would just not have been truthful."
One question is whether Blagojevich will strike a similarly defiant tone.
"Maybe he'll apologize for everything. Or equally possible, he says again, 'I'm a wronged man,'" said Charles Wheeler, a public affairs expert at the University of Illinois Springfield and a former journalist. "Even under terrible circumstances -- he still wants the spotlight."
Though accustomed to an entourage while in power, it's unlikely Blagojevich will be flanked by old pals or former staff.
As governor, he was surrounded everywhere he went -- by aides, lobbyists and star-struck constituents. There also were bodyguards, including one who carried a brush in case the state's top executive suddenly felt his abundant locks needed combing.
Former assistants, even friends, have long since turned their backs. Of a dozen ex-aides and allies contacted in recent days by The Associated Press, all declined to comment about Blagojevich or didn't return messages. One hung up at mention of Blagojevich's name.
"He was willing to throw anyone under the bus to get where he wanted to go," Wheeler said. "So there isn't the empathy for him -- though there is for his two young daughters."
The apparent disdain also is a contrast with Ryan, who -- even after he was tried and convicted -- still was viewed by some as a grandfatherly figure who people "liked and who he liked back," Wheeler said. On the day he reported to prison, Ryan was accompanied by his lawyer and longtime defender, former Gov. James Thompson.
The atmosphere was feverish at times on the day that Ryan reported, with helicopters hovering overhead and reporters buzzing around as Ryan departed from his home in Kankakee.
Blagojevich has not made public how he will report to prison Thursday.
He asked if he could serve his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, near Denver, and it's widely believed that's where he is headed. Prison officials won't confirm that, citing security issues.