The state of Illinois is the first state in history to have two former governors in prison at the same time… and consecutive governors, no less. George H. Ryan is currently serving his sentence after being convicted of federal corruption charges, and Rod Blagojevich entered prison this week after being convicted of (wait for it) corruption charges.
In all, Illinois has had four governors serve prison terms: Ryan and Blagojevich, Dan Walker (governor from 1973 to 1977) and Otto Kerner, Jr. (governor from 1961 to 1968). Two other Illinois governors have been indicted but eventually acquitted: William G. Stratton (Kerner’s predecessor, governor from 1953 to 1961) and Len Small (governor from 1921 to 1929).
Only two other states – Louisiana and West Virginia – have had two incarcerated governors ever. And in both those cases – Richard Leche and Edwin Edwards of Louisiana and William Barron and Arch Moore of West Virginia – the convictions were decades apart.
Maryland also deserves a mention, as two of her consecutive governors – Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel – ended up as felons. Agnew pleaded no contest to accepting bribes, under condition that his main punishment was resigning from the office of Vice President of the United States. Mandel, the state’s only Jewish governor, was convicted of mail fraud and racketeering.
Arizona also has a notorious history. Evan Mecham, governor for just over a year, was impeached on charges of misuse of funds and obstruction of justice, but acquitted of criminal charges in the matter. Fife Symington III, who served after Mecham, was convicted of extortion, making false financial statements and bank fraud.
So… way to go, Illinois! You make America proud!