Handed same 14-year prison sentence, Blagojevich files new appeal

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Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich | AP file photo

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich vowed last year to “fight on.”

So it was no surprise when the disgraced politician triggered a new appeal Tuesday, two weeks after a federal judge reinstated his 14-year prison sentence and left Blagojevich’s two daughters sobbing in the front row of a courtroom.

Still, Blagojevich’s odds are dimmer than ever. He now plans to appeal his sentence to the same 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found last year “it is not possible to call 168 months unlawfully high for Blagojevich’s crimes.” And beyond that waits the same U.S. Supreme Court that refused to hear Blagojevich’s case this year.

Former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer said Blagojevich has simply run out of arguments to offer federal judges, even if his attorneys decide to keep filing paper.

“I think we’ve hit the end of the road,” said Cramer, now managing director of Berkeley Research Group.

Leonard Goodman, Blagojevich’s attorney, told the Chicago Sun-Times there were “errors” during Blagojevich’s dramatic re-sentencing hearing on Aug. 9 in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge James Zagel. He declined to elaborate. Zagel paid little attention during that hearing to more than 100 letters from fellow inmates who describe Blagojevich as a model prisoner. However, Zagel also found Blagojevich accepted responsibility for his crimes despite arguments from prosecutors to the contrary.

The feds told Zagel that Blagojevich remains convicted of the same three schemes for which he was originally sentenced. They included his attempt to sell then-President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat; to shake down the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital for $25,000 in campaign contributions; and to hold up a bill to benefit the racetrack industry for $100,000 in campaign contributions. A jury also convicted Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.

Five of Blagojevich’s original 18 convictions were tossed last year by the appellate court, triggering the re-sentencing hearing. Blagojevich, 59, appeared at that hearing through a glitchy government video link.

“I made mistakes,” Blagojevich said, his voice filling Zagel’s downtown Chicago courtroom. “I regret those mistakes and those judgments. And I’m sorry, your honor. I wish I could find a way to turn the clock back and make different choices. But that is not possible.”

When Zagel dashed his hopes of an early release from prison, Blagojevich simply shook his head. His daughters wept. And former first lady Patti Blagojevich later called the sentence “unusually cruel and heartless and unfair.”

Years of appeals had led to that moment, only to end with the same result.

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