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June 28, 2011

You make the sentencing call: What sentence should Blago get?

As highlighted by this Chicago Tribune article, which is headlined "Rod Blagojevich sentencing: Experts weigh in on possible prison term," there is already no shortage of speculation as to what kind of sentence the former Governor of Illinois will be getting following his conviction on 17 counts of corruption in federal court yesterday.  Here is some of that speculation:

On paper at least, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich could be sentenced to as much as 300 years in prison following his conviction Monday on 17 counts of corruption. But how much does he really face?   Seasoned criminal-defense attorneys and former prosecutors consulted by the Tribune estimate Blagojevich could be looking at about 10 years, based on recent public corruption sentences here.  The sentence could take months to formulate.

While many factors will go into the decision by U.S. District Judge James Zagel, Blagojevich's unorthodox strategy to repeatedly go public with his claims of innocence could come back to haunt him, the experts said.  His conviction also means Blagojevich's decision to testify could hurt him at sentencing if the judge concludes the former governor lied under oath, they said.

Zagel's displeasure with the former governor's behavior has been on display at his retrial as well as the first trial last summer that ended with the jury largely deadlocked except for one guilty count.  The judge "is not going to sentence him on who he is," veteran attorney Robert Loeb said of Blagojevich. "He is going to sentence him on what he has said and done."

Blagojevich already faces sentencing for lying to the FBI, the lone count on which he was convicted at the first trial.  That jury deadlocked on the remaining counts, setting the stage for the retrial.

Before Blagojevich is sentenced, a probation officer using federal sentencing guidelines will calculate the range of punishment faced by Blagojevich.  Then prosecutors and Blagojevich's lawyers will argue about why more time should be added or shaved off.  Since the sentencing guidelines were made advisory and not mandatory about six years ago, Zagel has wide discretion to impose the sentence he thinks is just and fair....

The experts said Zagel is likely to punish Blagojevich as well as a deterrent for other elected officials.  With four Illinois governors convicted — three on charges related to their office — since the 1970s, Zagel could decide to send a strong message.  "Apparently the convictions have not served as a deterrent to the culture of corruption," Loeb said.

As suggested in this article, the way in which the guideline range gets calculated for Blago will be subject to much discussion and debate.  And yet, this unique prosecution hardly seeming like it is within the "heartland" of the usual political corruption offenses; plus, the sentencing judge now has a distinct obligation to work through all the 3553(a) sentencing factors to decision what kind of sentence would be "sufficient but not greater than necessary" to achieve congressional sentencing purposes.

As the question in the title of this post suggests, though I am interested in reader predictions as to what Blado will get, I am especially keen to hear what folks think he should get.  Months?  Years? Decades?  Severe lternative sentencing terms (like daily head-shavings)?  Feel free to answer with clever Blago jokes, though I am turly interested in what folks truly think ought to be Blago's punishment.

June 28, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Permalink


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NOTHING! a second trial is ILLEGAL under the double jeopardy rules!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 28, 2011 11:29:46 AM

Normally, I would tend toward leniency for white collar offenses: massive fines; little or no jail time. In this case, though, he has been so blatantly unrepentant. It's one thing to maintain one's innocence and argue against the state's case. It is another to appear on every talk show and reality show you can book yourself into and thumb your nose at the system for years. I'll put my bid in for 10 years.

Posted by: Ala JD | Jun 28, 2011 12:54:21 PM

He could get roughly 2 for the lying...17 counts of misc political rubbish...I'm thinking like ALA JD did exactly... He actually challenged Fitzpatrick to the 2nd trial....Like whos gonna win repeated trials, the Feds or a smuck....His first attorney (high roller from chicago??) quit. He said he doesn't require his clients to do everything he reccommends, but does require them to at least listen to him..

I will say, 12-18 yrs.....If he would have kept his mouth shut and acknowledged his mistakes, maybe 5-8....Even if he had plead guilty, he wouldnot have gotten the 3 level drop for acceptiong responsibility, with his trap flapping on Tv...Shocking to see an ex Gov. so inept at operating a cell phone or laptop...Referring to Donald Trumps show..and simple clerioal type jobs as well..The boys will have fun with Blago, where ever they send him..

Posted by: Josh | Jun 28, 2011 2:28:57 PM

This Judge (repellent though he is) will no doubt enhance Blago for perjury...he testified...the jurors chose to disbelieve him..ergo, he lied. As Jackie Wilson, of blessed memory, once sang: "Higher and higher!" And, if the Blago jurors were as gleeful in convicting him, think how even more gleeful the Judge will be in being able to increase his sentence.
The U.S. and sentencing: tis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Posted by: FluffyRoss | Jun 28, 2011 6:43:07 PM

Fluffy --

"This Judge (repellent though he is)..."

Blago, by contrast, is the Second Coming of Honest Abe. Yikes.

"...will no doubt enhance Blago for perjury...he testified...the jurors chose to disbelieve him..ergo, he lied."

No, what makes him a liar is that the stuff he said was false.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 28, 2011 7:01:49 PM

At least until his hair falls out of its own accord.

Posted by: John | Jun 28, 2011 7:34:58 PM

It will be interesting to see if the judge makes anything of the fact of Blago's numerous attempts to poison the jury pool by his repeated lies in the media that the government was withholding tapes. I remember news articles reporting that the judge had said in pretrial hearings that it was up to him, not the prosecutors, which tapes get played.

Posted by: domino | Jun 28, 2011 8:31:29 PM

Six years!

Posted by: John Marshall | Jun 28, 2011 11:36:34 PM

What do folks think the advisory guideline range is?
§ 2C1.1(a)(1) Base Offense Level (public official) 14
§ 2C1.1(b)(1) the offense involved more than one bribe or extortion +2
§ 2C1.1(b)(3) the offense involved an elected public official or any public official in a high-level decision-making or sensitive position +4

I don't think there can be much dispute regarding the applicability of any of those. So, he starts at a 20.

The cross-reference from the bribery value to the fraud chart will be heavily litigated. Totaling all of the schemes alleged, Blagojevich attempted to pocket over $1 million.
§ 2C1.1(b)(2) & 2B1.1(b)(1) Amount of value, benefit, or loss: > $1,000,000 +16

He should probably receive a two-level adjustment for obstruction of justice. He was convicted of lying to agents in the investigation and it is likely he perjured himself at trial.
§ 3C1.1 Obstruction of Justice +2

Is an adjustment for being an organizer/leader under § 3B1.1(a) appropriate? Given the number of schemes, bribes, and phone calls, it's arguably 'extensive' criminal activity. Two levels? Four?

Is an upward departure for loss of public confidence in government appropriate? See Guideline § 2C1.1, Application Note 7.

It's not hard to make the case that the offense level is in the high thirties, if not > 40.

Posted by: Marty | Jun 29, 2011 11:49:24 PM

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Posted by: ipad 3 | Jul 11, 2011 7:14:23 AM

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