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August 26, 2010

"Blagojevich: Focus on Sentencing, Not a Retrial"

The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing commentary by attorney Lonna Saunders at the Huffington Post providing advice to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.  Here are excerpts:

Memo to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald: You won.  Due to your legal team's efforts, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is a convicted felon.  Remember how they got Al Capone, another Chicagoan?  Not on racketeering nor on his mob-related activities. He was thrown in jail for his IRS woes.

Instead of preparing for a retrial, focus your time and talent on Blagojevich's sentencing hearing for lying to the FBI.  That is where you should focus your efforts.  That is what you should be discussing with Judge James Zagel-- a date for the sentencing hearing.  It is not as sexy as some of the other counts, but it is the meat and potatoes of what your office does . And let's face it.  The City of Big Shoulders, is a meat and potatoes type of town.

The entire nation has Blagojevich battle fatigue.  We can't take it any more.  Despite Blago's effing golden remark captured on the government's wiretaps of his conversations, President Barack Obama's US Senate seat was not sold to the highest bidder.  For if it had been, Rod Blagojevich's campaign war chest would have been six million dollars richer. But it wasn't....

This isn't just one woman writer's humble opinion.  It is a consensus of opinion from around the horn. It is rare to see the editorial boards of such politically disparate publications as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, agree on anything.  Yet after the Blagojevich jury verdict was announced, both papers editorialized that your office should skip a retrial even though it is your right to seek one.  Ditto Republican consultant Mary Matalin and Democratic TV talker Roland Martin as well as political commentator David Gergen who has worked both sides of the aisle, most recently for the Clinton White House.  All three were on CNN last week, opining against a retry of the Blagojevich brothers.

So, are you listening? To repeat. Mr. US Attorney, sir, you got what you sought. Rod Blagojevich is now a convicted felon. You won.

On behalf of the people of the state of Illinos and the nation, let's put our money and mouthpiece on the penalty phase.  Will Blago serve time in prison?  If so, at which facility?  For how long?  Will he pay a fine?  How much?  Will he be required to do community service? What and for how long?  Will he be required to make restitution?  Will he be confined to his home with an ankle bracelet?  Will he get to keep his hair or be forced to trim it?  Just kidding on that last one.  But for a guy who spent thousands on a single business suit, the mere thought of having to wear an orange jumpsuit every day, could be punishment enough.  OK, just kidding on that one, too....

Let's move forward, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, and spend the public's limited tax dollars and limited resources on catching some other bad guys.  You did what you said you would do. Another former governor is a convicted felon.  Hey, maybe George Ryan and Blago could even share a cell together.  Stranger things have happened.

Please accept the jury's verdict and move on. Thank you for your consideration.

In related news, this AP story reports that only one of the Blago brothers is facing a retrial after a court hearing today: "Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is set to go back on trial in early January, but he will stand alone as a defendant this time after prosecutors dismissed all corruption charges against his brother on Thursday. U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel said Rod Blagojevich's retrial will start the week of Jan. 4, but he did not set a specific date."

Does everyone agree that USA Fitzgerald ought to forget about a retrial?  Does anyone think that forcing Rod Blagojevich to shave his head and to go on a reality shown with an ankle bracelet might be a fitting shaming sanction?

August 26, 2010 at 04:08 PM | Permalink


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"Does everyone agree that USA Fitzgerald ought to forget about a retrial? Does anyone think that forcing Rod Blagojevich to shave his head and to go on a reality shown with an ankle bracelet might be a fitting shaming sanction?"

Why can't we have both? Zagel delays the trial for a year or two, until say 2013, while Blago goes on reality shows to shore up money for top flight attorneys rather than public defenders.

Posted by: . | Aug 26, 2010 5:23:26 PM

Fitzgerald should take a deep breath and move on.

Posted by: Robert | Aug 26, 2010 5:28:41 PM

"Does everyone agree that USA Fitzgerald ought to forget about a retrial? Does anyone think that forcing Rod Blagojevich to shave his head and to go on a reality shown with an ankle bracelet might be a fitting shaming sanction?"

In order for a shaming sanction to work, the defendant must be capable of shame.

So much for that.

In my view, Fitzgerald is a man of integrity who can sometimes overcook things. He overcooked the sentencing memo for Scooter Libby, and I said so at the time. But he's an honorable person and I am proud once to have been his colleague, even if in a different part of the country.

His office slightly overcooked the Blago indictment. My advice is: Slim it down and have at it again. Under the real offense system that Booker explicitly sought to preserve, Blago is headed for all five years he could get. No need to worry about sentencing. But full justice has yet to be rendered to this corrupt pol, a rightful heir to ex-cons George Ryan and Otto Kerner.

Of course, any time President Obama's AG, Eric Holder, wants to pull the plug, he can. US Attorneys are subordinate to the AG. So for those who want to see Blago go on to the plush life of an autograph-peddling celebrity -- which is where he's headed after the five years -- don't send your cards and letters to me. Send them to Mr. Holder.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 26, 2010 5:51:57 PM

Whether right or not, I find the article kind of offensive. Her thesis seems to be that because she is sick of the media spectacle and because idiot gasbags on tv agree on the matter, the retrial shouldn't go forward. I'm not sure that's how we should be deciding who to prosecute.

Posted by: dm | Aug 26, 2010 6:38:54 PM

dm has it right. Exactly what criteria was applied by the newspaper editorial boards or the spin machines on TV when they gave their recommendation? Exactly what responsibilities do they have, 0or did they internalize, (such as public safety, clean government) when they gave us their opinion?

Whatever criteria they did apply, is that what we want the people in charge of federal prosecutions to use? Somehow, I doubt it. This is not a question of who won or who lost, it is a question of accountability. The only verdict rendered plainly does not hold him accountable for all his actions and the fact is that a hung jury is not a jury verdict but a lack of decision. Therefore there is no verdict "to accept" and move on.

Given that it was apparently a lone holdout for the most serious charge of trying to sell a Senate seat, the decision of trying the case again to punish a corrupt Governor appears to be a far more reasonable approach than "I am tired of Blago, I want to write/talk about something else."

It is frustrating to hear these journalists who have no responsibility for the consequences of the decisions they advocate render an opinion without any regard to the obligations of those who do have to make the call. "The entire nation has Blagojevich battle fatigue. We can't take it any more." This is her reasoning? Thankfully she is not a prosecutor.

Posted by: David | Aug 26, 2010 10:07:40 PM


" the fact is that a hung jury is not a jury verdict but a lack of decision."

sorry david but baloney! in a trial the state is REQUIRED to prove it's case "beyond a reasonable doubt" for 100+ years a hung jury meant that WAS IT! trial was over! DONE! it's ONLY in the last few lawless decades when the criminals have been running the sytem that SUDDENLY you could go back and get a DO-OVER on the other counts.

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 26, 2010 11:14:05 PM

Mr. rodsmith,

Exactly how is my recitation of the current state of the law baloney? You may disagree with the law, you may feel it is wrongly decided, but it is nevertheless the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court. If you position were correct, we would not be debating the wisdom of a retrial, there would not be one.

Posted by: David | Aug 27, 2010 10:10:36 AM

well david for 100+ years the supreme court said slavery was legal.... gues what now it's NOT! just becase they say it's so DON'T MAKE IT LEGAL.

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 27, 2010 12:30:04 PM

Fitzgerald isnot a crumbling bum like Blagos atty's want the public to think.....For myself I feel one trial is all that is justified. But I'm not the law, therefore Blago is TOAST...If the feds want him bad enough, hes a gonner...

Bill Otis, would you go for another round with Blago, if you the USA?? Do you agree he will be convicted the 2nd time around. It was only 1 juror that was the holdout...Makes one wonder if the juror was on the up and up, doesn't it..

Posted by: Abe | Aug 27, 2010 3:42:08 PM

Abe --

Yes, I would re-try him. Justice is as yet incomplete.

I don't know whether he'll be convicted. The evidence is there, but sometimes guilty men go free -- see, e.g., OJ.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 27, 2010 6:44:56 PM

this statement right here bill tells me what a danger you and people who think like you are to this country!

"The evidence is there, but sometimes guilty men go free -- see, e.g., OJ."

Sorry LEGALLY he's INNOCENT! there was a crinmnal trial and he was found NOT GULITY! IE INNOCENT!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 27, 2010 11:29:24 PM

rodsmith --

Did OJ stick the knife in?

Don't tell me about the adjudications. I know all about them, both civil and criminal. That's not the question.

The question is: Did OJ stick the knife in?

And don't tell me you don't know. You know perfectly well, as we all do.

Did he stick the knife in?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 27, 2010 11:36:53 PM


I agree that just because the supreme court says it doesn't make it right (although it may make it legal, but not legally correct). But who says the Supreme Court got the jeopardy question "right" in the first 100+ years you describe? Maybe their interpretation now is actually right and legally correct. As you say, slavery was legal under Supreme Court law for over 100 years, but that did not make them correct.

Posted by: David | Aug 28, 2010 1:02:22 PM

hmm david not quite sure how you can interpet "you cannot put a defendant in jeopary of their live TWICE for the same crime"

would seem pretty damn simple.

and bill legally doesn't matter what i think or YOU think under our laws he had a legal CRIMINAL trial and was found not guilty! THAT'S all that matters. Under 200+ years of our laws that means he's INNOCENT!

only been in the last 40 years of our new criminal govt you could drag someone found NOT GUILTIY in a criminal court across the hall into a kangaroo civil court and find them guilty for the SAME CRIME the criminal court found them INNOCENT of.

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 28, 2010 6:50:39 PM

rodsmith --

You are the last guy on here from whom I would expect an evasive answer. You generally don't mince words and flat-out say what you think. This is one of your virtues. You are not a fancy-dance, shake-and-jive guy.

So I will ask again: Did OJ stick the knife in?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2010 7:29:45 PM

lol oh i think he's as guldity as hell at least for arranging for it to happen. but that's not what he was charged with and like i said legally he was found not guilty not to do for it now. Just watch em and sooner or later the true personalty will come out and then you hammer them.

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 29, 2010 12:33:10 AM

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