Blagojevich sentencing set for October 6

August 1, 2011 3:14:24 PM PDT
In October, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich will learn how much time he will spend behind bars for his conviction on corruption charges.

Judge James Zagel set the sentencing hearing for October 6, but that date is tentative and could slip back. Blagojevich could spend several years in a federal prison, but making a good impression during his courtroom appearance could help the former governor.

Sentencing hearings can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days depending on whom the defense may call as character witnesses, and what Blagojevich chooses to say to the judge. Whatever is said, many legal experts are predicting that the ex-governor is looking at a likely sentence of eight to ten years.

The former governor will be sentenced for his single count conviction in the first trial -- making false statements to the FBI -- and the 17-felony guilty verdicts in his second trial. He will be allowed at sentencing to present witnesses who will speak to his good deeds. His legal team says it's too early to say who will be part of that, but did explain their plan.

"He was a good honest governor who tried to help the people of the state of Illinois, and he cared about the ordinary guy," Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said.

That is something that Blagojevich, himself, has said countless times. When it is his turn to address the court, the former governor will be walking something of a tightrope. He did, after all, take the stand to proclaim his innocence, so he can't go back on that and apologize at the sentencing hearing.

DePaul Law Professor Leonard Cavise said Blagojevich should say he accepts the verdict, like it or not.

"So if he says to the judge, I accept responsibility without saying I intentionally broke the law, which he will never do, that may help him," Cavise said. "Judge Zagel knows pretty clearly where he's gonna go now, and if Blagojevich makes a good impression, he can save himself a few months."

The former governor's lawyers have asked for a new trial, claiming in a detailed filing that Blagojevich was never allowed to testify as to the true intent of his actions, that the judge's rulings on that were fundamentally unfair, and that's the substance of an appeal.

"I do think a couple of judges on the court of appeals are going to be concerned and they may even find some error, but it's not going to be serious enough for reversal," Cavise said.

Blagojevich's attorneys clearly hope the contrary is true. After sentencing, they will ask that the former governor be allowed to remain free until his appeal is heard by the seventh circuit.

Appeal bonds aren't usually granted in public corruption cases. Defendants are typically given three to four months to get their affairs in order before they are to report to prison. That could mean Blagojevich would begin his sentence sometime in the early part of 2012.


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