There is no doubt former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is a guilty man. Among his crimes, he tried to sell a vacant Senate seat and blackmail a hospital and racetrack owner to make big campaign donations.
But the 14-year sentence he began serving in 2012 is too severe. U.S. District Judge James Zagel should reduce it when he resentences Blagojevich Aug. 9.
Prosecutors asked Zagel to stick with the 14-year sentence in a filing Monday night; Blagojevich’s lawyers want as little as five years. A fair sentence we have pushed for is about 6½ years. That’s consistent with the sentence imposed on former Gov. George Ryan for far more appalling bribery crimes.
A federal appeals court last year dismissed five of Blagojevich’s 18 criminal convictions and ordered a resentencing. That doesn’t guarantee a reduced sentence because the three-judge appellate panel also said “it is not possible to call 168 months unlawfully high for Blagojevich’s crimes.”
Nobody got hurt in Blagojevich’s scheming. That in no way excuses his crimes, but it should lessen his punishment. Ryan’s corruption, on the other hand, was contagious and devastating. Dozens of employees who had committed fraud during his tenure as secretary of state ended up getting convicted. In the 1990s, the lives of millions were jeopardized when truck drivers who had received licenses by paying bribes hit the road. Ryan owned all of that.
In comparison, Blagojevich was a fumbling goof as he tried to sell President Barack Obama’s seat in the U.S. Senate after Obama was elected president.
Yes, Blagojevich is a criminal. But the punishment should fit the crime.
By his lawyers’ accounts, Blagojevich has been a model prisoner in Colorado. He has taught Civil War and World War II history. He and another inmate formed a band called “The Jailhouse Rockers,” but it broke up after the other inmate was released.
This jailbird should get less time.
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