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Prosecutors Fire Back at Blagojevich Appeals Court Letter

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Reporter Phil Rogers explains the latest installment in the appeals saga for Rod Blagojevich.

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Federal prosecutors fired back at Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys Friday, saying a recent court decision on campaign finance does not mean they have to prove that Blagojevich explicitly asked for something in return for campaign cash. 

Earlier this week, the former governor’s lawyers filed a last-minute letter with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that his jury was mis-instructed on the issue of campaign contributions, in light of a recent decision before the United States Supreme Court.

“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 attempted 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.

Attorney Leonard Goodman cited a recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Comm., 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.

On Friday, federal prosecutors insisted the McCutcheon decision meant nothing of the kind, and that there was nothing wrong with the way the jury was instructed.

“Where campaign contributions were involved, the instructions (like the instructions related to bribery and fraud) correctly conditioned a finding of guilt on proof that defendant attempted to exchange a specific requested exercise of his official power (including the Senate appointment, signing of the Racetrack bill, and implementation of Medicaid reimbursement increase) for money or property in the form of such contributions,” wrote prosecutor Debra Riggs Bonamici.

“Nothing in the decision suggests that an exchange of contributions for specific acts is quid pro quo corruption only if the arrangement is stated explicitly or expressly.”

Blagojevich is serving 14 years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado.

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