Rod Blagojevich could have come home to Chicago next month.
He could have insisted prison officials bring him to the Dirksen Federal Courthouse to watch U.S. District Judge James Zagel hand down his new sentence.
But the headstrong former governor has instead acquiesced to prison officials’ recommendation and agreed to attend next month’s hearing by video link, attorney Leonard Goodman said. That revelation surfaced in a brief status hearing Wednesday in Zagel’s courtroom that was held to prepare for yet another key moment in Blagojevich’s fight for freedom.
“That’s fine with me,” Zagel said of Blagojevich’s decision not to attend the hearing in person.
An appeals court’s decision last year to toss five of Blagojevich’s 18 criminal convictions triggered the new sentencing hearing, set for Aug. 9. Federal prosecutors want Zagel to reinstate Blagojevich’s original 14-year prison sentence, despite cries that it was too harsh. Blagojevich’s lawyers are instead hoping for a five-year sentence, which could quickly spring the former politician who has already spent more than four years in a Colorado prison.
Goodman told reporters after the hearing that Blagojevich, 59, sought a furlough from prison for the hearing — meaning he would have been allowed to travel to Chicago on his own. Goodman said the request was denied because of the publicity surrounding Blagojevich’s case.
Meanwhile, the process of transporting Blagojevich from Colorado to Chicago could have taken as long as two weeks. Prison officials would have routed the former governor through Oklahoma City on his way to Illinois.
Ultimately, Goodman advised Blagojevich to choose the video link.
“I think his first choice was to be here,” Goodman said.
A member of Blagojevich’s family may speak at the sentencing hearing. So will Blagojevich, Goodman predicted. Prosecutors said they do not expect to call any witnesses.
However, the new sentencing process has opened a window into Blagojevich’s four years behind bars. His legal team filed 141 pages of supportive letters this month, mostly from fellow inmates who have come to know Blagojevich as “The Gov.”
Goodman has also revealed that Blagojevich formed a prison band known as “The Jailhouse Rockers.” And after court Wednesday, he told reporters the band had a 21-song playlist.
Among their favorite songs: “Bad Moon Rising.”