Blago Defense Asks for Leniency in Sentencing

In a dueling war of words addressed to the federal judge who will decide Rod Blagojevich’s fate, federal prosecutors asked Wednesday that the former governor be sentenced to between 15 and 20 years in prison, while defense lawyers argued that Blagojevich “received no monetary gain, and caused no public harm,” and that he deserved a lenient sentence.

Defense attorneys said by their analysis of federal sentencing guidelines, Blagojevich faced at the extreme, 41 to 51 months in prison. Prosecutors argued that the correct range should be 30 years to life, but suggested a term of between 15 and 20 years behind bars.

"Mr. Blagojevich followed the law as he understood it to be," wrote defense lawyer Carolyn Gurland. "Mr. Blagojevich’s profound devotion to his wife and young children, and the devestation that his absence will cause his family, provide further support for the exercise of leniency in his sentencing."

For their part, prosecutors cited what they called Blagojevich’s "extensive corruption in office, the damage he caused to the integrity of Illinois government, and the need to deter others from similar acts."

"Blagojevich’s criminal activity was serious, extended, and extremely damaging," wrote prosecutor Reid Schar. "Blagojevich took office and immediately began plotting with others, to use the Office of Governor for his personal gain, through fraud, bribery, and extortion."

The two filings marked, in essence, the last word from both sides before Judge James Zagel hands Blagojevich his sentence next week. He has set aside two days for that hearing.

The government reminded the judge that Blagojevich’s misdeeds came on the heels of the conviction of his predecessor, at a time when he promised to clean up Illinois government. They urged a longer sentence than the six and a half years George Ryan received, suggesting that Blagojevich did not appear to have gotten the message.

"While Blagojevich pledged to restore integrity to the governor’s office, he was actively scheming to engage in criminal activity," Schar wrote. "His accomplishments as governor are far outweighed by the personal greed that infected his acts, and his administration."

The prosecutors said they were sympathetic to the impact a lengthy jail sentence would have on the former governor’s wife and children, but declared that what he now faced, was “the unfortunate result of choices Blagojevich made.”

But the Blagojevich defense team argued that their client was essentially a broken man who had already suffered enough.

"Mr. Blagojevich has become, in connection with this case, a tragic figure; an impeached, unemployed criminal defendant, abandoned by all of his advisors and friends; a figure drawing public ridicule and scorn," wrote Gurland.

"Despite a strong, and seemingly defiant exterior, no one is more acutely aware of the tragedy that has become of his life’s work and aspirations, as is Mr. Blagojevich himself."

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