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After one year in prison, Blagojevich improves as a person, lawyer says

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 8:26 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — CHICAGO — It was exactly one year ago on Friday that an adoring crowd of supporters chanted, “Free our governor,” as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was about to set off for federal prison.

“This is not over,” the disgraced politician said as he basked in his final moments under the spotlight at a primetime news conference outside his Ravenswood Manor home. “We have faith in the future, faith in the rule of law ...I’ll see you again.”

The next day, Blagojevich checked into Federal Correctional Institution-Englewood, a low-security prison 15 miles southwest of Denver, to start serving a 14-year prison sentence for attempting to sell a U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama on his election as president in 2008.

After logging one year as Inmate 40892-424, Blagojevich, 56, remains optimistic and positive, two of his attorneys said Thursday. He continues to have faith that he will be vindicated through the appeal of his conviction and sentence, said Lauren Kaeseberg, one of his attorneys.

“He believes justice in the end will prevail,” Kaeseberg said. “He wakes up every day in a horrible place and that’s what gets him through every day, is a belief that in the end the right thing will happen.”

To fight the dreary routine of prison and the prospect that he could be locked up for more than a decade, Blagojevich is journaling, reading and running regularly, his attorneys said.

“He is to become a better man physically, emotionally and mentally,” Kaeseberg said. “He is working on himself.”

He is teaching history to other inmates and setting goals for himself, physically and otherwise, Kaeseberg said. He is buoyed largely by daily calls to his wife and daughters. Inmates are allowed a total of five hours on the phone each month.

After more than three turbulent years in which Blagojevich was arrested, impeached, tried and convicted, his family has kept a low profile. They make the approximately thousand-mile journey to see him once every couple of months, Kaeseberg said.

“That visiting room has to be one of the saddest places on Earth,” Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, wrote in a Facebook post last May. “All those little kids visiting their dads. It breaks your heart.”

Patti Blagojevich and other relatives could not be reached or declined to comment for this story.

The former governor has adjusted well with other inmates and is living in a large dorm-style cell with bunks, his attorneys said.

“He is a very likable person,” Kaeseberg said. “He’s adaptable. He is really doing as well (as he can).”

One issue Blagojevich’s attorneys would not comment on was his famous raven coif. Neither attorney could say whether his hair has grayed in prison, though his longtime barber revealed after the former governor’s surrender to prison the poorly kept secret that he dyed his hair.

But it’s unclear if Blagojevich has access in prison to hair dye, though dyes are not included in the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ list of hygience products provided to inmates.

“I haven’t seen a picture,” said Aaron Goldstein, another Blagojevich lawyer. “I expect proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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