A few Blagojevich backers gather outside courthouse

PoliticsRod BlagojevichCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemAl CaponeChicago Tribune

Large groups of supporters often greeted Rod Blagojevich during his two federal trials, offering encouragement to the former governor.

Dozens of people several rows deep filled the sidewalk on South Dearborn Street when the verdict in his second trial was announced June 27. But such crowds were replaced with a smattering of supporters Tuesday morning, the first day of Blagojevich's sentencing hearing.

"I want to say to him, 'I love you and I appreciate what you did for us,'" said Ortencia Aspurez, 55, of the Ravenswood neighborhood.

As about 20 people craned their necks for the sight of a vehicle that could be the former governor's, Aspurez described Blagojevich as a humble person who was being unfairly vilified.

"He did more good things for us than bad," she said. "He fought for the kids and for the homeowners. Maybe he (made) a mistake, but everyone does."

Some said that Tuesday was their first time at the courthouse as Blagojevich backers. But mother-daughter pair Laverne and Linda Marsh, of the Uptown neighborhood, said they visited several times throughout both trials. Both agreed that he deserved to be punished, but not with the 15 to 20 years prosecutors are requesting.

"Yeah, he did wrong, but I've seen worse," said Linda Marsh, 37, who said she wanted to get Blagojevich's autograph. "They made him look like Al Capone the second."

Supporters stood among some casual observers who expressed no strong opinion one way or the other.

"When you do the crime, you're supposed to do the time," said Lynn Cruz, 41, of Arlington Heights, who stopped on her way to work. "But at the same time, he has a wife and kids. Did he really intend to do wrong or was he just kind of ignorant and being led astray? I don't know the answer to that."

To the disappointment of some, the former governor arrived Tuesday via an underground garage, away from the throngs of cameras, reporters and onlookers.

cdrhodes@tribune.com

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