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September 14, 2011

Early buzz that feds think Rod Blagojevich's guideline range is 30 years to life in prison

I am a bit skeptical of, though still quite intrigued by, this new story from the Chicago Sun-Times headlined "Feds say Rod Blagojevich could get 30 years to life in prison."  Here are the basics: 

Federal prosecutors argue Rod Blagojevich could serve 30 years to life in prison, sources say — a sentencing range that will be bitterly disputed by the former governor’s defense lawyers.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky called the government’s numbers “harsh and cruel,” Wednesday but said he wouldn’t discuss them.  The prosecution’s calculation was submitted in private. Sorosky said the defense would put forth its own version that is a far cry from the government’s.

“We are preparing a submission to Judge Zagel, which is far, far, far under those draconian and harsh and cruel numbers,” Sorosky said.  “We are making our own guideline calculation which is fair and based on facts and the evidence at trial.”

Blagojevich, 54, who is now scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 6, was convicted in June on 17 of 20 counts of corruption, including charges that he schemed to sell President Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich was also convicted last year of one count of making false statements to the FBI....

U.S. District Judge James Zagel will have wide discretion over the former governor’s prison term, as sentencing guidelines for federal judges are advisory.  Judges typically listen to all sides and then decide, based on a number of factors that make up the sentencing range....

“While that may be the government’s calculation, it’s good to keep in mind that Judge Zagel has ultimate discretion,” said Patrick Collins, a former prosecutor in the Ryan case. “I would be shocked if he would consider a sentence anywhere near that.”

In the prosecution’s calculations, the government says Blagojevich faces more time because he took the witness stand and allegedly obstructed justice, sources said. As governor, he was also leader of an enterprise, they will argue.  The U.S. Attorney’s office had no comment.

Court filings involving Blagojevich’s sentencing are expected on Friday.  Though his sentencing is set to begin Oct. 6, Sorosky has previously questioned whether it would begin on time since the same judge is set to begin the corruption trial of Springfield power broker William Cellini three days earlier.

It is not unusual for federal guideline sentencing ranges to go crazy high in white-collar cases in which a lot of money was lost or gained.  But I cannot recall any political corruption cases in which the government ran the numbers to get such a high range.   This press report may reflect the fact that the government's filing with the probation office suggested the potential applicability of lots of guidelines enhancements even if the PSR is unlikely to find all the enhancements applicable.  Whatever the particulars, it seems we can and should expec the feds to be seeking some serious prison time for Blago.

Some related posts following Blago's convictions in June:

September 14, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Is anyone keeping track of which group of prison inmates is larger -- Illinois Governors or Massachusetts Speakers? I've lost count.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 15, 2011 11:51:44 AM

You left out Jefferson County, Alabama! We have almost a whole county commission in federal prison. Top that!

Posted by: Ala JD | Sep 15, 2011 3:28:38 PM

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