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Appeals court: No delay in Blagojevich resentencing

Imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich could learn his new prison sentence sooner than he hoped.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt the former politician yet another blow Monday, swiftly turning down a request he made late last week to hold off on his resentencing until the U.S. Supreme Court gets a look at his case.

“There is no reason to delay the remand because neither another trial nor a resentencing would affect the issues on which Blagojevich intends to ask the Supreme Court for review,” the court said.

That means Blagojevich’s case could soon be back in the hands of U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who gave Blagojevich his original 14-year prison sentence back in 2011. Blagojevich’s attorney declined to comment.

“We are going to see a resentencing, I think, before we hear from the Supreme Court,” Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, said Monday after the ruling came down.

Blagojevich was convicted on 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. A three-judge appeals court panel tossed five of those convictions last month and wrote, “if the prosecutor elects to drop these charges, then the district court should proceed directly to resentencing.”

It’s unlikely that federal prosecutors will re-try Blagojevich on the five counts, legal observers say.

The former governor did make a long-shot bid for all nine active appeals court judges to hear his case. The court shot him down last week, though, and Blagojevich’s appellate attorney vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Cramer, now the head of the Chicago office for Kroll Inc., noted that Zagel could schedule Blagojevich’s new sentencing “for whenever he likes.” But Richard Kling, a clinical professor of law at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, said Blagojevich should be concerned about a return to Zagel’s courtroom.

U.S. Appellate Court Judge Frank Easterbrook, who wrote last month’s three-judge ruling, “went out of his way” to note the ways Zagel cut Blagojevich a break at his original sentencing hearing, Kling said. For example, Easterbrook wrote that Zagel gave Blagojevich credit for accepting responsibility.

“Even though he pleaded not guilty, denied culpability at two lengthy trials, and even now contends that the evidence is insufficient on every count and that he should have been acquitted across the board,” Easterbrook wrote. “That’s the antithesis of accepting responsibility.”

Kling said that could signal bad news for Blagojevich.

“He could get a longer sentence,” Kling said.