Attorneys for former governor Rod Blagojevich have filed a last-minute letter with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, arguing that his jury was mis-instructed on the issue of campaign contributions.
“Blagojevich’s conviction is based in large part on his attempts to solicit campaign contributions,” they wrote. “In this appeal, he argues that the lower court’s instructions to the jury on this issue, ‘omitted the quid pro quo requirement that the government prove that Blagojevich’s requests for campaign contributions were made in return for an “explicit promise or undertaking” to perform or not perform an official act.’”
Instead, they argue, the Blagojevich jury was told to convict on a lower standard that he tried to obtain a campaign contribution, only “knowing or believing that it would be given to him in return for taking some kind of official action."
In Wednesday's filing, attorney Leonard Goodman cites the recent decision in McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, which established that political contributions are protected speech under the First Amendment.
“The McCutcheon decision supports Blagojevich’s position that, where a criminal prosecution is based upon attempts to solicit campaign contributions, the government must prove a quid pro quo, or a promise,” Goodman wrote.
The Blagojevich appeal was argued before the Seventh Circuit last December, and a decision from the court is expected any day. It isn’t clear why the lawyers felt the need to file this last-minute clarification.
Blagojevich is serving a 14-year term at the Federal Correctional Center in Englewood, Colorado.