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*** UPDATED x1 *** A quick look at the Blagojevich appeal

Friday, Dec 13, 2013

* Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer’s are arguing their appeal of his conviction today. Main dot points from the AP

- Blagojevich had engaged in legal, run-of-the-mill “political horse-trading” as he sought a Cabinet seat, an ambassadorship or some other high-paying job for himself in exchange for appointing someone to the U.S. Senate seat Barack Obama vacated to become president.

- Trial Judge James Zagel wrongly added years to Blagojevich’s sentence as a result of $1.5 million in campaign contributions that supporters of then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. allegedly offered if Blagojevich named Jackson to Obama’s seat. The appeal says there’s no proof such an offer was “accepted, negotiated or even entertained by Blagojevich.”

- Zagel allowed one juror - referred to only as Juror No. 174 - to remain on the panel during Blagojevich’s second, decisive trial, even after he said about Blagojevich during jury selection that, “I just figured him, possibly, to be guilty.”

- Zagel erred by not allowing Blagojevich to argue at his trial that, whether or not he broke the law, he acted in good faith and always thought his actions were legal.

* Sun-Times has rebuttal

But in their filing, prosecutors balked at the notion that what Blagojevich did was commonplace, writing that, “A public official who sells his office engages in crime, not politics.”

They also addressed the allegedly biased juror. A partially formed opinion, they noted, isn’t in itself grounds for booting someone from a jury, provided that would-be jurors assure a judge they will decide a verdict based only on evidence at trial, as the juror in question did.

* Tribune

The Chicago-based 7th Circuit is also known as one of the stingiest in the nation when it comes to reversing cases. According to statistics from 2011 and 2012, the court reversed only about 12 percent of criminal cases that it decided. Some legal experts who spoke to the Tribune about the ex-governor’s chances also questioned whether painting Zagel as biased could hurt more than help, since he’s well-regarded by appellate judges as smart and experienced.

Blagojevich might have better prospects of reducing his sentence. The 14-year prison term handed down by Zagel was the second-longest ever delivered in federal court in Chicago for a political corruption case and more than double the time given to Blagojevich’s predecessor, George Ryan, who completed his 6 1/2-year prison sentence earlier this year.

* From a WUIS interview of House Speaker Michael Madigan

VINICKY: “It’s the five year anniversary of Blagojevich’s arrest coming up … any reaction, any …

MADIGAN: “Yeah, we should … celebrate.”

*** UPDATE *** The trade for the US Senate seat, in my mind, has always been the weakest link. Two appellate justices appeared to express at least some agreement today

During one exchange, Easterbrook asked if there was “any criminal conviction in U.S. history” other than Blagojevich’s in which a politician was convicted for trying to trade one job for another.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Bonamici had to admit there wasn’t one, as far as she knew.

Easterbrook then described how in the run up to the 1952 presidential election, California Gov. Earl Warren offered to “deliver California” for Dwight Eisenhower in return for a seat on the Supreme Court — a deal that Eisenhower honored when he was elected.

When Easterbrook asked if Eisenhower and Warren should therefore have been jailed, Bonamici said they should not have been, calling Blagojevich’s case “totally different.”

Easterbrook countered that it would be an “act of shysterism to say that was okay and that [what Blagojevich did] was not.”

And Rovner asked whether Blaojevich’s actions were not part of the “time-honored way in which politicians do business.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - A guy... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:24 am:

    He’s guilty as sin on this. Betrayed the public trust and everyone around him. I can’t even imagine a circumstance where appealing this conviction has an ounce of viability. That being said, it’s probably a third too long. 9 or 10 years would have been more consistent with other precedents. I believe the extra 4 or 5 years came from thumbing his nose at the court, the legislature and the entire process. While contemptible, 10 years is a healthy dose of humble pie. In fact, so is 6 or 7 for that matter. Appealing this probably is detrimental to trying to get the sentence reduced. He’s his own worst enemy who’s convinced himself and only himself that he is a different guy than who he is. No glee here, mostly sadness for the people around him.

  2. - Lobo Y Olla - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:25 am:

    I’ll start feeling forgiving, when he starts accepting responsibility.

  3. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:26 am:

    The radio story I heard about the appeal this morning included a mention of Rod’s one complaint about prison. The other prisoners take his stuff perhaps because it has his name on it.

    I wonder if they took his “football.”

  4. - Independent - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:28 am:

    Before Madigan hurts himself slapping his own back he needs to reflect on his role in helping Blago get re-elected.

  5. - langhorne - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:32 am:

    trivia question. who did blago think was on the phone pranking him, when the FBI called to tell him to come to the door, he was being arrested?

    roland was appointed dec 31, 2008. will rich or anyone be hosting a 5 yr reunion for his follower(s)?

  6. - Norseman - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:33 am:

    I’ll celebrate harder when the appeals court rejects Blago’s appeal.

  7. - Mr. Big Trouble - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    Patti will, again, be singing Blue Christmas w/ out RB.. good riddance for both!

  8. - 47th Ward - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    There was nothing run-of-the-mill about Rod Blagojevich and his “political horse trading” was more accurately descibed as horse stealing. The guy was out to enrich himself, plain and simple. Everything else is desperate spin.

  9. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    Geez, no hurry on that appeal, huh? I guess you get what you pay for.

  10. - zatoichi - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:44 am:

    Me: ‘I acted in good faith, thought my actions were legal, and just did what other people have done.’

    My Dad years ago: ‘Son, that’s the best you got? You gonna jump off that bridge with the crowd. Try again.’

  11. - chad - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    It is hard to celebrate anything in light of the hit Illinois took to its reputation as a result of Blago’s activities. There are too many political leader-enablers who knew that this man had gone beyond any proportionality in his political operation, and yet assisted his re-election. It does them little good to celebrate actions taken so late in the game. While I sympathize with the plight of his now-fatherless children, I believe a conservative application of legal wisdom by the 7th to reject the appeal is what we will see — and what is best to provide deter others.

  12. - dupage dan - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:00 am:

    To the appeals court - please affirm.

    To MJM - Please don’t celebrate until you explain why you EVER supported RB. I know you wanted to keep the mansion in the hands of the dems but look at the epic price Illinois has paid, and continues to pay, because RB was gov.

    Please affirm and end this. Don’t lower his sentence - Illinois needs all that time to recover before that clown comes back and we have to listen to him on some radio station. Please.

  13. - RNUG - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:03 am:

    If and when the State recovers from the damage done, then and only then should the court consider Blago’s appeal …

  14. - Wensicia - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    Blagojevich has never shown true remorse for his criminal actions or the devastation he put his family through, his betrayal of the citizens of this state. Instead, he played celebrity before and after his conviction, laughing it up for the cameras, while his wife had tears in her eyes and God knows how his children suffered.

    Let him rot; he earned every day of his sentence.

  15. - Levois - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    Uhhhhh, he shouldn’t have went to prison with anything that has his name affixed to it! :P

  16. - Levois - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:12 am:

    The speaker’s comment was interestingly hilarious. Is this an indication that he didn’t like that man? I know many may hold him responsible for Blago being re-elected as he didn’t really lift a finger to remove him. Although I do wonder if getting him re-elected in 2006 was a chess move on Madigan’s part.

  17. - DuPage - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:12 am:

    I want to hear the tapes that supposedly showed exculpatory evidence. If it did not show anything, why would the government not allow it? “There is nothing there so it would be a waste of time to listen to them” said the judge. What is being hidden? Are they hiding political dirt on other high ranking politicians?

    Then the judge tells Blago “if you want me to allow the tapes to be played, you will have to testify”. So Blago takes the stand, afterwards, the judge says “no I will not allow the tapes to be played”. Even the guilty deserve a fair trial and be allowed to present a full defense.

  18. - And I Approved This Message - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:18 am:

    The enduring image I have of the whole fiasco is from the day before he left for Littleton. He was on the front lawn of his house mugging for pictures and signing autographs while his younger daughter stood crying in the doorway begging him to come inside and spend his last few hours with his family. I can’t stand the guy but I always thought the sentence was a bit too harsh. For what he put his children through, there is no sentence harsh enough.

  19. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:24 am:

    ===I know many may hold him responsible for Blago being re-elected===

    They’d be wrong. $27 million and his amazing ability to lie is what done it.

  20. - Loop Lady - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:26 am:

    Like Madigans sense of humor on this, but he is complicit as are the members of the IL Dem party in the havoc Blago set upon the State, especially in the second term when everyone knew better…

  21. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:33 am:

    Thanks Rich. I was gonna say that a jillion “What’s She Thinking?” Ads may have done more for him than MJM.

  22. - Bogart - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:49 am:

    Sounds like Easterbrook was sympathetic to the “horse trading” defense.

  23. - Amalia - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:54 am:

    can’t stand the guy. but Easterbrook’s query if Chief Justice Earl Warren’s promise to deliver Cal delegates to Eisenhower in trade for that, oh, small spot, provoking a “that was different” response from the prosecutor was interesting.

  24. - Louis Howe - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:57 am:

    Considering Bill Cellini’s less than one year prison time, Blago’s 14 year sentence was much too long. Fourteen years is a long time to pay for being arrogant and incompetent, and unlike Cellini, Blago didn’t collect a dime for his efforts.
    The previous 26 years of republican governors pay-to-play management of state government was something Judge Zagel, as the former director of the Illinois State Police (1980-1987) should have known something about. Although, I can’t recall any prosecutions for job selling or contract shake downs during Director Zagel’s term of office.
    Blago should be in jail, but 14 years is truly unusual punishment for a common crime in previous state government.

  25. - Anonymour - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 12:25 pm:

    The tape of the oral argument is now up on the 7th Circuit’s web page:

  26. - Carl Draper - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 1:32 pm:

    I was in the audience this morning and mus say that Easterbrook was rejecting arguments of the feds that the Senate seat charge had any merit. Judge Rovenor was skeptical on several evidentiary issues that hampered Blago. I believe Blago was guilty of far more than he was convicted of, but the appeal is no slam dunk for the Justice Department.

  27. - John Boch - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 1:39 pm:

    Thanks for the reminder Rich. I need to send Blago a Christmas card.

  28. - anonymous1001 - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 1:54 pm:

    @ Louis Howe - Friday, Dec 13,13, 11:57 am:

    To my un-cultured eye, it appeared that Judge Zagel was setting an example with the lengthy prison term for Ron Blagojveich, and I’m OKAY with that.
    Blagojevich ‘pushed the envelope’ as far as Illinois political behavior is measured.
    To compare Bill Cellini with Ron Blagojevich is to, pardon the cliché, compare apples and oranges.

  29. - dupage dan - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 2:13 pm:

    === his amazing ability to lie is what done it ===

    Frankly, it wasn’t hard to tell he was lying. What is hard to understand is why so many folks believed him.

  30. - Just Me - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:26 pm:

    I would love for him to win his appeal. Another year of Blagojevich-news would be so entertaining!

  31. - A guy... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:36 pm:

    To the update:
    Imagine how much better Blago’s case would have gone had he been in prison and not in court while he was being tried. The well is far less poisonous when he’s not around.

  32. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:42 pm:

    While that seems a weaker element of the case, one must wonder: where do we draw the line?

    If it is OK for people to trade political “favors” for other “favors” - promises to raise campaign funds, political appointments, “better” or higher paying positions, jobs for family or other “friends”, etc. - where do we draw the line?

    A “better” or higher paying job puts money into your bank account. So does a job for your spouse, as so many Illinois political spouses appear to know. It is essentially a payoff by different means.

    IMHO, this can be a very blurry and messy issue. Better not to tempt fate and even go near the line in the first place, lest ye cross it.

  33. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:50 pm:

    Carl Draper (local attorney) said above:
    “I believe Blago was guilty of far more than he was convicted of, but the appeal is no slam dunk for the Justice Department.”

    Counselor, well said. That’s why a lot of folks have mixed feelings about the outcome of this appeal.

  34. - Norseman - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 4:26 pm:

    AA, I’d have to add that he’s an excellent attorney who was successful in several legal actions against Blago abuses.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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