Feds: No decision on Blago sentence request

September 15, 2011 9:48:21 AM PDT
On Thursday morning, federal prosecutors clarified that they have not recommended a sentence for former governor Rod Blagojevich, saying they released advisory guidelines, which is standard practice and reflects the government's belief of the maximum sentence possible. It is not necessarily the length of sentence prosecutors will request Blagojevich serve.

In July, Blagojevich was convicted on 18 counts of corruption, including charges that he tried to sell President Obama's former Senate seat.

"The government has not recommended a sentence publicly or privately, not withstanding news reports to the contrary," said U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Randall Samborn in the statement. "The government has submitted a calculation of the advisory sentencing guidelines, as it is required to do in all cases. The sentencing guideline formulas are established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The government submitted that calculation to the probation office as is standard practice and we will not comment on those calculations publicly."

As ABC7's Ben Bradley explained Wednesday, federal sentencing guidelines assign a point value to each individual crime and other factors such as lying and criminal history. Add up all the points and it translates into a maximum sentence possible. In this case: 30 years to life. But a decade ago, the law changed, giving judges a lot more leeway to follow the guidelines or come up with a sentence of their own.

If a 30-year sentence were recommended, experts agree that Blagojevich probably wouldn't be spending three decades in jail.

"Is anybody going to ask for that much time? That could be overkill and backfire. I think you will hear them say this is a state plagued by corruption," said Patrick Collins, former federal prosecutor.

A 30-year sentence is five times more than what former governor George Ryan got -- he is now serving a six-year sentence. Collins, who prosecuted Ryan, says the government always tried to send a message at sentencing.

"In the George Ryan case, for example, when we did our calculations, we came up with 12 or 13 or 14 years. The judge gave him 6 and a 1/2. Not to say that is the ratio that will hold here, but everybody should understand this is the starting point. The government will clearly be on the aggressive side," said Collins.

A three-decade sentence is also more than three times longer than former Cicero town president Betty Loren Maltese served; longer than former Congressman Mel Reynolds got for having sex with a 16-year-old campaign worker; and longer even than some murderers face.

"What the governor was convicted of was not nice stuff but there's series the judge will take in to consideration. Based on those guidelines, the judge will impose a sentence," said Richard Kling, Kent College Of Law.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will likely reveal more about their sentencing strategies in court filings due Friday.

Blagojevich's sentencing is scheduled for October 6, but it could be delayed because it conflicts with the start of another corruption case in front of the same judge.

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