Blagojevich vows appeal to U.S. Supreme Court after latest rejection

SHARE Blagojevich vows appeal to U.S. Supreme Court after latest rejection
SHARE Blagojevich vows appeal to U.S. Supreme Court after latest rejection

No politician could avoid federal prison if held to the same standard as Rod Blagojevich, the imprisoned ex-governor’s lawyer said.

That’s the pitch his legal team could soon make to the U.S. Supreme Court after a long-shot bid in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals fell flat Wednesday. It left Blagojevich’s prospects looking dimmer than ever, more than three years after he began serving a 14-year prison sentence in Colorado.

“He’s a person of great faith,” Leonard Goodman, Blagojevich’s appellate attorney, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “And he believes in the legal system, and he believes that we’re right, and I tend to agree with him.”

A three-judge panel tossed five of Blagojevich’s 18 criminal convictions last month in a decision that initially seemed to signal good news for the former governor. However, that panel said “it is not possible to call 168 months unlawfully high for Blagojevich’s crimes.”

With no clear indication that a lighter prison sentence is on the horizon, the 58-year-old Blagojevich asked all nine active appellate court judges on Aug. 4 to hear his case.

It took 15 days for the appeals court to shoot him down in a three-sentence order. It said, “no judge in regular active service has requested a vote” on Blagojevich’s request, and “all of the judges on the panel have voted to deny rehearing. The petition for rehearing is therefore DENIED.”

Richard Kling, a clinical professor of law at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, said the swift decision signaled the full court’s support for the original ruling.

“I think there’s a real clear message,” Kling said.

But Goodman called the original ruling “flawed,” and he said in a written statement that it “puts every public official, who must raise campaign funds to stay in office and to be effective, at the mercy of an ambitious or politically motivated federal prosecutor.”

“We remain hopeful that we will prevail in the end because the decision is in conflict with established legal precedent which has existed for more than 20 years,” Goodman said. “Now we will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, said in her own statement she was “disappointed,” but she also expressed gratitude.

“I am thankful that the decision came quickly because the waiting is awful,” Patti Blagojevich said. “What’s clear is that in order for us to see justice, the appeal needs to be taken out of Illinois and be in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court where we can find fairness and impartial justice.”

Blagojevich was convicted of the 18 counts over two trials, including that he attempted to trade his power to appoint someone to a U.S. Senate seat in exchange for personal benefits.

Kling pointed out that the three-judge panel called the evidence against Blagojevich “overwhelming” and said U.S. District Judge James Zagel gave Blagojevich several breaks at sentencing.

He also said he didn’t see a unique issue that might interest the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Goodman argued two weeks ago that a “question of exceptional importance” exists because the three-judge panel lowered the standard of proof to put politicians in jail.

“Few politicians, who must raise campaign funds as part of their job, could survive the legal requirements imposed on Blagojevich,” Goodman said in his pitch to the full appeals court.

In an interview with the Sun-Times on Wednesday, Goodman said that might be an important enough issue for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.

“By that standard, every politician is vulnerable to being put in federal prison,” Goodman said.

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