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News Wrap: Rod Blagojevich Given 14-Year Sentence

December 7, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The former Democratic Gov. of Illinois Rod Blagojevich was sentenced today to 14 years in prison for corruption. He’d been convicted of trying to sell the appointment to President Obama’s Senate seat, among other things.

Before a federal judge handed down the sentence in Chicago, Blagojevich apologized for his actions for the first time. He said he was unbelievably sorry and that he’d made terrible mistakes.

Later, he spoke briefly to reporters, with his wife alongside.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) former Illinois governor: This is a time to be strong. This is a time to fight through adversity. This is a time for me to be strong for my children, be strong for Patti. And this is also a time for Patti and me to get home so we can explain to our kids, our babies, Amy and Annie, what happened, what all this means, and where we are going from here.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Blagojevich is due to report to prison on Feb. 16. His predecessor as governor, Republican George Ryan, is serving a six-and-a-half-year prison term also for corruption.

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was jailed today. He was accused of new counts of sexually abusing boys, but could not post bail. Sandusky already faced 40 counts.

There was also word that Bernie Fine, a former assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University, will not face charges of molesting boys in the 1980s. A prosecutor said the statute of limitations has run out.

Prosecutors in Philadelphia have dropped their long-running fight to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal. The former Black Panther was sentenced to death in 1982 for murdering a white police officer, Daniel Faulkner, during a traffic stop. Abu-Jamal maintained he was a victim of racism. And, in 2008, a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing.

Today, the district attorney said he wants to avoid more years of appeals.

SETH WILLIAMS, Philadelphia district attorney: There’s never been any doubt in my mind that Mumia Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner. And I believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by the jury of his peers in 1982. While Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life. And that is where he belongs.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Over the years, a “Free Mumia” movement has grown up around Abu-Jamal, including dozens of celebrities, Amnesty International and supporters worldwide.

In Russia, anger over last Sunday’s parliamentary elections led to a third night of unrest. Police detained scores of demonstrators in Moscow, as several hundred people protested. They condemned the ruling party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and claimed voter fraud. Earlier, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged an annulment of Sunday’s results in favor of a new vote.

It was another deadly day in Afghanistan — 19 people were killed when a roadside bomb tore through a minibus. It was traveling through a part of Helmand Province in the south known to be a Taliban stronghold. Meanwhile, in Kabul, funerals were held for some of the 56 people killed in yesterday’s suicide blast at a Shiite shrine.

And President Hamid Karzai visited some of the wounded at a hospital today. He vowed to confront Pakistan about the attack after a Pakistani militant group claimed responsibility.

Pearl Harbor survivors gathered in Hawaii today to mark the Japanese attack that plunged the United States into World War II. It was 70 years ago today.

FORMER PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: Dec. 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Second World War was already in its third year when Japanese warplanes swooped down on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at dawn that morning. The surprise attack sank or severely damaged 21 ships and killed nearly 2,400 Americans.

Today, as every year, several thousand people attended the ceremonies at the site overlooking the sunken battleship USS Arizona.

RAY MABUS, secretary of the Navy: You, the survivors, as well as those who were lost earned, with your blood, with your sacrifice, a legacy you have passed on to those who have followed.

HARI SREENIVASAN: This year’s commemoration was the last for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. The group is disbanding as its numbers steadily dwindle.

The association’s vice president, Mal Middlesworth, appealed to future generations to keep the memories alive.

MAL MIDDLESWORTH, Pearl Harbor Survivors Association: Let no author, historian or politician attempt to rewrite the history of what happened here 70 years ago.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Japanese foreign minister voiced deep emotion today about the anniversary. But he praised the U.S.-Japanese alliance that grew out of the war.

Occupy protesters in San Francisco rallied today after police cleared out their campsite. The protesters had occupied a major plaza since mid-October as part of a national movement against bank bailouts and economic injustice. Earlier this morning, police moved in and gave campers a few minutes to pack up and leave. They took down 100 tents and arrested 70 people.

And, in Washington, D.C., today, thousands of protesters marched through a part of the city where many lobbyists have their offices. Eleven people were arrested.

Trading on Wall Street was relatively subdued today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 46 points to close at 12,196. The Nasdaq fell a fraction of a point to close at 2,649.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.