* 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.
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.”