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Quinn: Not ‘a happy day for Rod Blagojevich’

Gov. PQuinn. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman File)

Gov. Pat Quinn. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

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Updated: March 14, 2012 7:42PM

Gov. Pat Quinn expressed empathy for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s family Wednesday but said the governor’s imminent trip to federal prison underscores that holding public office in Illinois should not be about “self-service.”

“If you’re in public office, that’s public service, not self-service. And I think those who don’t understand that have to pay the appropriate penalty that’s found by the jury and the judge in their case,” Quinn said.

“So, this isn’t a happy day for Rod Blagojevich, and I wish the best to his family. But that’s what our justice system is all about,” the governor told reporters during an appearance opening the 1871 tech start-up center at the Merchandise Mart.

Quinn made his comments just hours before Blagojevich made what was expected to be his last public statement himself before reporting to a federal prison in suburban Denver on Thursday.

That’s when Quinn’s predecessor and one-time running mate begins serving his 14-year prison sentence for a string of corruption that include efforts to sell President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.

Meanwhile, Quinn also expressed disappointment in Tuesday’s arrest of state Rep. Derrick Smith by federal agents for allegedly accepting a $7,000 bribe to sign off on a letter in support of a $50,000 state grant to a daycare center in his district.

“I think we shouldn’t judge anyone until the jury does and the judge renders a sentence, if that’s the case. Nonetheless, it just I think should alert anyone in public office our job is to serve the public only, and not self service,” Quinn said when asked about the Smith arrest.

“Too often unfortunately in Illinois political history, there have been individuals who have breached the public trust, and my job as I see it is to make sure our state government doesn’t tolerate that,” he said.

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