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August 9, 2016

As federal prosecutors urged, former Gov Blagojevich resentenced to same 14-year prison term despite a few vacated convictions

As reported in this Wall Street Journal piece, a "federal judge on Tuesday refused to reduce a 14-year prison sentence handed down to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich" at his resentencing. Here are more details on why and how Blago was resentenced earlier today:

“The fabric of this state is torn,” said U.S. District Judge James Zagel, adding that “the fault lies with the governor and no one else” for his lengthy sentence. The former governor, 59, now will have 10 years left to serve of his prison sentence.  Mr. Blagojevich — appearing via video feed from a prison in Colorado with his once-black hair turned grayish-white — appeared stunned and shook his head as the judge delivered his decision.

Mr. Blagojevich had appealed for a reduced sentence of just five years after an appeals court last year threw out five of the original 18 counts for which he was found guilty. In court on Tuesday, his lawyer Len Goodman argued that his case was “significantly different” after the appellate court’s ruling. Mr. Goodman also argued that Mr. Blagojevich wasn't acting inappropriately for personal gain, but to acquire political muscle and therefore should serve a shorter sentence.

“He never took a bribe,” said Mr. Goodman, speaking in court. “He bought his own clothes; he bought his own baseball tickets.” Mr. Blagojevich, speaking to the court via a blurry video feed, apologized for his mistakes and for his actions in his time as governor. “I recognize that it was my words and my actions that have led me here,” he said, with his family present in court. “I’ve made mistakes and I wish I had a way to turn the clock back.”...

Both his children addressed the court Tuesday, saying that their father was a good man and that their family was suffering greatly from his absence. They both broke down in court upon hearing the judge’s sentence. Mr. Goodman also submitted a series of letters to the court written by prisoners who were serving time with Mr. Blagojevich, all of whom said he was an inspiration who was helping them through their sentences and teaching them useful skills, including how to prepare for a job interview.

Judge Zagel said that Mr. Blagojevich’s good behavior in prison was “not especially germane” to his decision and that the same circumstances remained from when he rendered the sentence in 2011.

Speaking after the sentencing, Patti Blagojevich, the former governor’s wife, said that his family finds the sentence “unusually cruel and heartless and unfair.”

“I am dumbfounded and flabbergasted at the inability of the judge to see that things were different” than before, she said.

I would assume that the former Gov may now appeal this newly-imposed 14-year prison term. Depending upon how the full sentencing record now shapes up, it seems at least possible that a Seventh Circuit panel might give a hard look at the reasons given by the district judge here for not changing the sentence at all this time around.

Some older related posts on the Blagojevich case:

August 9, 2016 at 06:43 PM | Permalink


Seems to me that the judge has lost his objectivity. Objectively speaking if there is a reduction of counts there has to be a reduction in the sentence otherwise it is a tacit admission that when the judge crafted the initial sentence he treated those charges as not counting anything towards the original sentence length, a highly dubious proposition.

Note that I am not suggesting that the judge had to reduce his sentence by a great deal or anything like what the defense wanted. But to simply reimpose the same sentence when there has been a material change in circumstances strikes me as evidence of a judge bent on revenge, not justice.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 9, 2016 7:38:26 PM

Interesting point. However, if the original sentence wasn't stacked, ie was to run concurrently, dismissal/reversal of lesser counts doesn't have to affect a sentence at all.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Aug 9, 2016 10:29:03 PM

Its been said that judges are anchored to the Guidelines. That's true and judges usually admit it. But its also true that Judges are anchored to prison sentences. I am not sure how a 14 year prison sentences will better further any of the 3553(a) factors compared to say a 5 year sentence. Then, again, I dont believe the Guidelines really materially changed with the vacated convictions because its still conduct that can be taken into account under 3553(a), 3661 and the relevant conduct provisions of the Guidelines.

Posted by: Responder | Aug 10, 2016 11:47:49 AM

"But its also true that Judges are anchored to prison sentences."

Correct. My point is that if a judge has become psychologically anchored to a sentence, such that he goes looking for data to justify his predetermined conclusion...even if such justification is legally permissible...can such a judge truly be said to be operating in an objective manner? He might be following the letter of 3553(a) but it seems to me he has lost the spirit of the endeavor.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 10, 2016 1:06:53 PM

Lets face it, Blago and Illinois need a swift kick. State of Illinois is a total disaster.
Cant pay retirement to retires, lotto gaming is defunked and their Govenors usually go to prison for corruption. Along with 3000 plus shootings each yr in Chicago. Pit hole of America

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Aug 12, 2016 8:20:17 AM

I'm good with this. Perhaps Clinton will give him early release, but I don't think Obama should.

Posted by: Gary | Aug 12, 2016 8:01:25 PM

Blago tried to use his control over purse to get people fired from their jobs--(N.B., he threatened the Tribune's business interests in order to get some editorial writers fired). He deserves no mercy. None.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 15, 2016 10:24:45 AM

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