Attorneys for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared today that it was “inconceivable” that Judge James Zagel had failed to take into account an appellate court’s decision to throw out five counts, when he re-sentenced Blagojevich to his original 14 year sentence. They further wrote that Zagel had failed to take into consideration Blagojevich’s record in prison, and the testimonials of more than a hundred of his fellow inmates.
“Blagojevich’s 14 year sentence is far harsher than the sentences imposed on other governors convicted of political corruption,” Attorney Len Goodman wrote in Friday’s filing with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, “despite the fact that those governors, unlike Blagojevich, were convicted of accepting personal benefits in exchange for official favors.”
The latest filing comes as part of Blagojevich’s latest appeal, which will be argued before the Seventh Circuit on April 18.
It is not disputed that Blagojevich received no money as part of the alleged schemes for which he was convicted. Goodman noted former Illinois governor George Ryan received only six and a half years in prison for his conviction on charges of steering millions of dollars of contracts to friends, and Edwin Edwards of Louisiana drew only a ten year term, even though he was convicted of accepting bribes relating to the licensing of riverboat casinos.
“This case raises important, fundamental questions about where to draw the line between lawful political activity and crimes of extortion, bribery, and honest services fraud,” Goodman wrote. Blagojevich’s case is particularly important because it involves the solicitation or attempt to obtain campaign contributions, which the Supreme Court has held is a form of protected political speech that warrants heightened scrutiny.”
Goodman also charges that the court erred in its instructions to the jury, and that it was a mistake to give such heavy consideration to allegations that Blagojevich planned to offer the Barack Obama Senate seat to Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for $1.5 million in political contributions.
“He’s basically in prison for aggressive campaign fundraising,” Goodman told NBC 5 on the anniversary of Blagojevich’s imprisonment earlier this month. “Nobody in modern history has been prosecuted solely for campaign fundraising violations.”