Blago attorneys: Rod doesn't deserve 15-20 years

December 6, 2011 8:32:43 PM PST
Two very different pictures of former governor Rod Blagojevich were presented to the judge on day one of his sentencing hearing.

The defense said he was a kind and compassionate man who deserves leniency. The prosecution called him a criminal who should be sent to prison for at least 15 years.

The former governor was convicted at two separate trials on 18 corruption counts.

Whatever mistakes he made as governor, his attorneys argued with great passion that Blagojevich is a loving and devoted husband and father, and a long prison term would crush his wife and daughters. In a letter read in court Tuesday, Mrs. Blagojevich wrote the judge, "I ask you humbly with the life of my husband and the childhood of my daughters in your hands, be merciful." And from the Blagojevich's teenage daugher Amy to the judge, "it's too drastic a change. I need my father...I need him for my high school graduation...I'll need him when my heart gets broken."

But Blagojevich's attorneys also had some admissions Tuesday.

In their lengthy presentation before Judge James Zagel, his attorneys argued that Blagojevich didn't get a penny, always thought his actions were within the bounds of law. For the first time, however, they also acknowledged that crimes were committed, that Blagojevich was convicted and has to take responsibility. But what he did, they said, does not call for a sentence of 15-20 years as the government wants.

"He asked for a job in return (for President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat). That's all he did at first. We accept that that's a crime. He did it and he should not have done it (but) that crime does not call for a 15-year jail sentence," said Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky.

As attorney Aaron Goldstein said, the government may have portrayed him as a shark, "but he wasn't swimming with guppies." And if he were to get slapped with 15 years, defense lawyers contend he would be the most harshly punished public corruption defendant in the country and he doesn't deserve that.

Judge Zagel has not played his hand but has rejected Blagojevich's claim that he was misled by advisors who lied to him and ultimately ruined his life. The judge said of Blagojevich, "his role as leader is clearly shown by his actions - not just his badge of office." The judge also spoke of a concern of an attempt by Blagojevich to "delegitimize the entire proceeding," and he indicated he thinks Blagojevich lied on the stand.

"He said perjury and agreed he lied on the witness stand. Have they proved perjury? Legally I don't know that they have. Normally it's considered obstruction of justice," said Prof. Richard Kling, Kent School of Law.

On Wednesday, the prosecution will lay out its case and Judge Zagel is expected to hand down Blagojevich's prison sentence.

Blagojevich silent after hearing

A swarm of reporters greeted the former governor and his wife when they arrived at their Ravenswood home in a black sedan just after 6 p.m. The usually talkative Blagojevich did not make any comments. His wife Patti held his hand, leading him up the stairs and into their home. Later, when leaving the home with her sister, Patti did not answer any questions.

Earlier in the day, Blagojevich, who is just days shy of his 55th birthday, did not make a statement outside his home and entered and exited the federal courthouse through a basement door Tuesday on the first day of the former governor's sentencing hearing.

He said little outside his Ravenswood Manor home on Tuesday as he left for the federal courthouse with wife. Blagojevich, a big Chicago Cubs fan, answered only questions about the election of legendary Cub Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame.

"God bless him, I'm so happy to see he made it in to the Hall of Fame," Blagojevich said. "Long overdue."

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