Rod Blagojevich

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich Asks Full Court to Hear Appeal

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich asked a full federal appellate court in Chicago to rehear his appeal after three judges recently overturned five of his 18 corruption convictions.

The imprisoned Democrat's lawyers filed the request Tuesday with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Following the filing, Blagojevich issued a public statement, his first since he entered federal prison more than three years ago to begin a 14-year sentence.

"It has been almost three and a half years since I left home and reported to prison," Blagojevich said. "These have been hard years for my family — for our children and for my wife, Patti, and me. Yet we continue to have faith in the truth; in the righteousness of our cause; in the rule of law and in America; in each other; and, most of all, in God. There is nothing I desire more than to return home to my wife and two young daughters. I cherish them more than anything in the world. I wish this was over. But I must fight on. What is at stake is nothing less than the rule of law. I urge the media and the public to please read the court filing carefully. Fundraising is a part of the job of every politician. The jury instructions used to convict me in my case are not the law. It makes the standard so low that any politician can be jailed at the whim of an ambitious prosecutor. That standard is wrong and needs to be corrected."

The three-judge panel threw out convictions linked to Blagojevich's attempt to land a post in President Barack Obama's Cabinet in exchange for appointing an Obama adviser to the president's old U.S. Senate seat.

It also ordered that the 58-year-old be resentenced. But the ruling said the original 14-year sentence might be considered fair even after subtracting the five overturned counts. So, Blagojevich's chances of a drastically reduced sentence seem slim.

Blagojevich is hoping the full court will overturn more counts. Full-court hearings aren't granted automatically.

The 7th Circuit only agrees to have the full court rehear a case a few times per year. For Blagojevich's case to be reheard, a majority of the nine active judges must vote in favor of the request within the next 14 days.

Judges can agree to rehear a case for several reasons, including if they think a three-judge panel's ruling contradicts rulings in other cases or if they think there's a uniquely important legal issue they want to weigh in on.

A central focus of the three-judge panel's opinion on Blagojevich — released on July 21 — was the question of when an elected official crosses the line between legal and illegal political horse-trading.

The three judges said the determining factor was money. They said Blagojevich crossed the line into illegality when he sought cash for naming someone to Obama's old Senate seat or in exchange for other official gubernatorial action. But they said he didn't cross the line by asking for a Cabinet seat for himself. Secretly trading favors based on politicians' executive powers is legal and is a legitimate mechanism for getting things done for constituents, they concluded.

Some critics have said the opinion went too far in declaring back-room deals legal.

The three judges said the evidence against Blagojevich was "overwhelming" on the convictions they upheld and that those convictions — including extortion and bribery conspiracy.

After his 2008 arrest, Blagojevich became the butt of jokes on late-night TV for his well-coiffed hair and his foul-mouthed rants on FBI wiretaps. In one, he crows about the Senate seat: "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden. And I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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