FORMER ILLINOIS Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, speaks to reporters as his wife, Patti, listens at the federal building in Chicago on Wednesday.

FORMER ILLINOIS Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, speaks to reporters as his wife, Patti, listens at the federal building in Chicago on Wednesday.

CHICAGO ( AP) — Rod Blagojevich starts today facing a bleak countdown — 71 days before the twice-elected Illinois governor must say goodbye to his family and begin serving a 14-year sentence for corruption.

During those days, he will scramble to get his financial affairs in order and spend a final birthday and Christmas at home with his wife, Patti, and their two young daughters before heading off to prison to serve the sentence handed down Wednesday.

The next time Blagojevich gets to spend Christmas or his birthday with his children — 15-year-old Amy and 8-yearold Annie — they will likely be young adults. Blagojevich, whose 55th birthday is Saturday, won’t be eligible for early release for about 12 years, when he will be around 67 years old.

“ I’ve had a lot of clients who’ve had to start making preparations the day after they were sentenced,” said Gal Pissetzky, a federal defense attorney based in Chicago. “But not a single one of them has been able to prepare for saying goodbye to their children.”

Judge James Zagel sentenced Blagojevich on Wednesday on 18 counts of corruption, including his June convictions on charges that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash or a top job. The impeached governor must report to prison on Feb. 16.

The Blagojeviches, who say his legal troubles also devastated them financially, put their home up for sale after he was convicted in June, and he would likely want to find a buyer before he heads off to prison. They initially listed it for $1.07 million but reportedly lowered the price recently by several thousand dollars.


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