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December 6, 2011

What should (and what will) be the applicable guideline range for Blago?

What is expected to be a two-day sentencing hearing for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has now gotten started in a federal district court in Chicago.  The action can be followed via live tweets at this link being authored by Chicago Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney in the courthouse for the Blagojevich sentencing hearing.  According to her early postings, a few folks were in line at the federal courthouse at 3am this morning to be able to see all the action.

I assume that 99.9% of folks are only interested in the final sentencing term to be imposed by Judge James Zagel on Blago (which is expected to be announced on Wednesday).  But, for reasons partially explained in prior posts here and here, I am perhaps most interested from the outset to see how Judge Zagel calculates the guideline range.  My guess, without having given any serious attention to any of the guideline calculation disputes, is that he will end up largely splitting the difference in some manner between the extreme ranges calculated by the parties.  (A calculation winding up in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 years would be my bet, and then an ultimate sentence imposed somewhere slightly above or below the calculated range.)

As the title of this post suggests, I am eager to hear from any and all hard-core federal sentencing fans about just what they think the "right" guideline calculation is.  Importantly, guideline calculations are not supposed to be matters of discretion: the applicable guidelines law and findings of fact should completely script the guideline calculation outcome.  In reality, though, these calcultions in contested cases always involve judgment calls by judges as fact-finders that often seem a lot more like the exercise of discretion and a lot less like the application of sentencing law.

Some recent and older related posts on the Blagojevich case:

December 6, 2011 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

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I know you can't judge by another's case, but . . . the prosecutors recommended 20 years for my son. Zagel gave him 10 and apologized and said his hands were tied and that he hadnt gotten a fair trial and deserved a new one (which he - Zagel - tried to give him - my son). So, it's hard to judge by that, but I do believe Judge Zagel has a heart, even though he is very pro-prosecution. He even wrote a clemency support letter for my son.

Posted by: msyoung | Dec 6, 2011 1:39:50 PM

I guess, what I meant by all that rambling is, I believe that whatever Zagel gives him, he will try to be fair. But who knows? Wednesday's outcome might change that belief.

Posted by: msyoung | Dec 6, 2011 1:41:48 PM

Speaking of loose guidelines..This guy also had a gun if I remember and aboided a gun bump as well..and retained his $174 K annually salary and is not a felon.

Jack Camp, the former federal judge ensnared in a scandal involving drugs and a stripper, was sentenced Friday to 30 days in prison and 400 hours of community service.

Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said he could not give a sentence of only probation because Camp had breached his oath of office. "He has disgraced his office," Hogan said. "He has denigrated the federal judiciary. He has encouraged disrespect for the rule of law."

Before being sentenced, Camp apologized for what he had done and thanked his family and friends, many of whom filled the courtroom. "I have embarrassed and humiliated my family as well as myself," Camp said. "I have embarrassed the court I have served on and I am deeply sorry for that. When I look back at the circumstances which brought me here and look at what I did, it makes me sick." Camp said that at the end of the day, "the only thing I can say is that I'm so very sorry."

As a judge, Camp often meted out harsh sentences and rarely gave breaks to defendants who presented mitigating circumstances to explain their conduct. On Friday, Hogan was asked by Camp's lawyers to grant leniency because of the ex-judge's decades-long battle with a bipolar disorder and brain damage caused by a 2000 biking accident....

Camp, 67, resigned from the U.S. District Court bench shortly before he pleaded guilty in November to federal charges -- giving the stripper, who he knew was a convicted felon, $160 to buy drugs. Camp was a senior judge at the time of his arrest. He will continue to receive a $174,000-a-year salary, as do all federal judges who retire and have the requisite years of service.

Posted by: Josh2 | Dec 6, 2011 4:02:03 PM

It sounds like the judge is fair, open minded and tough. I would guess he can't vary much less than what the AUSA has on the table. I would think 12-15 yrs is somewhere in the ball park...As the feds range was 30-life, offering 15-20.

But it seems, so much is open to what he is attributable for. Even though I think
Blago is a rat, I feel for the guy. In as much as I wouldn't like to be in that position. Another point is, did he lie on the stand, extra 5 yrs right there.

Be interesting as he has been colorful. It took 2 trials to bring him down, this far..I think 1 trial is the limit, but oh well. It is what it is...

He actually didn't get his task done of selling the seat...It is like a conspiracy, is where all the trouble is in calculating a range...

Posted by: Josh2 | Dec 6, 2011 10:57:24 PM

Keep in mind that these guidelines were based on stories imagined by policy makers long before the problem in question became fully knowable. I would say forget them.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Dec 7, 2011 1:14:36 AM

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