A group of high-profile Illinois Democrats have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s case.
In an amicus brief filed Monday, the who’s who list of current and former Illinois Democratic congressional delegation members emphasized that they take “no position on Mr. Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt on any of the counts of conviction.”
Instead, they wrote that the nation’s highest court should hear his appeal to “distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal extortion, bribery, and fraud laws.”
Among the 19 going to bat for Blagojevich are U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, Bill Foster, Luis Gutierrez, Mike Quigley, Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky.
Former Illinois congressmen Bill Lipinski, David Phelps and Glenn Poshard are listed on the brief as well, along with former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, state Sen. Carol Ronen and Elmwood Park Village President Skip Saviano.
Blagojevich, who has served more than five years of his 14-year sentence for soliciting bribes for political appointments, made his second bid to the Supreme Court last month, more than a year after it refused to hear his case.
The amicus brief filed Monday echoes many of the points argued by Blagojevich’s lawyers, who say the high court must settle questions over whether prosecutors in a case like Blagojevich’s must prove a public official made an “explicit promise or undertaking” in exchange for a campaign contribution.
The petitioners in Monday’s brief wrote that current laws create “confusion” over “the necessary, legitimate solicitation of campaign contributions, on the one hand, and unlawful extortion, bribery, and fraud, on the other.”
Two years have already passed since a three-judge appellate panel overturned five of Blagojevich’s original 18 criminal convictions. That triggered a new sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge James Zagel in August 2016. However, the judge refused to lower his prison term, despite tearful pleas from Blagojevich’s daughters.
That sentence was affirmed earlier this year by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The long-shot petition is among the few options left for the imprisoned Democrat. Blagojevich is not due out of prison until May 2024.
If his lawyers fail before the Supreme Court, Blagojevich’s only hope for an early release may be his pending commutation petition before President Donald Trump. The two men met when Trump was a reality TV show host on the set of “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Blagojevich’s lawyer, Leonard Goodman, is a member of the investor group that recently purchased the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Reader.