Blagojevich facing deadline to appeal convictions
CHICAGO – Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers were working Monday to meet a deadline to file what could be a book-length, 100-page appeal calling for the imprisoned former Illinois-governor’s corruption convictions to be tossed or, at least, for his 14-year sentence to be reduced.
Monday at midnight was the filing deadline, though lawyers can request an extension. The appeal would come more than two years after the 56-year-old Democrat’s decisive retrial and 16 months after he walked through the gates of a Colorado prison.
Lauren Kaeseberg, one of Blagojevich’s longtime attorneys, said the appeal will be filed in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. She declined to comment on its content.
The defense filed multiple motions in U.S. District Court after Blagojevich’s retrial seeking to have the verdict overturned, and the arguments in such post-trial motions are typically rolled into an appeal. One was a claim that trial Judge James Zagel barred wiretap evidence that might have helped Blagojevich.
Jurors convicted Blagojevich two years ago for wide-ranging corruption, including that the two-term governor sought to profit from his right to appoint someone to the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated to become president.
In a June request for permission to file a longer-than-usual appeal, Blagojevich’s attorneys told the court there were 12,000 pages of court transcripts alone; they added, “The issues for appeal are numerous and complicated.” The court agreed to let them file the equivalent of about 100 pages.
As they prepared the appeal, Kaeseberg said lawyers were in touch with Blagojevich, now inmate No. 40892-424 in the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood outside Denver. She declined to offer details.
Appeals can take years to play out, and defendants rarely prevail.
Another Illinois governor convicted of corruption, George Ryan, filed multiple appeals over years, losing all key rulings. The Republican was recently released after more than five years in prison and seven months on home confinement.
Blagojevich was convicted on 18 counts over two trials, with jurors in the first deadlocking on all but one count. Taking the stand in the second decisive trial in 2011, Blagojevich insisted his talk about selling Obama’s seat was just that – talk.
At his sentencing hearing later in 2011, Zagel imposed a lengthy prison term, telling Blagojevich he had abused voters’ trust and undermined the democratic process “to do things that were only good for yourself.”