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Prosecutors: Blagojevich should get 15 to 20 years

FILE – In this June 27, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media at the federal courthouse in Chicago. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, Blagojevich should be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison. Blagojevich’s attorneys are expected to respond with their own recommendation later Wednesday. His sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Dec. 6. Blagojevich was convicted of 18 corruption-related counts. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

FILE – In this June 27, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media at the federal courthouse in Chicago. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, Blagojevich should be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison. Blagojevich’s attorneys are expected to respond with their own recommendation later Wednesday. His sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Dec. 6. Blagojevich was convicted of 18 corruption-related counts. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — Rod Blagojevich deserves a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison on his multiple corruption convictions for misusing the power of his office “from the very moment he became governor,” federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

In arguing for a sentence that would be one of the longest for corruption in Illinois’ sordid political history, prosecutors said Blagojevich — convicted, among other things, of trying to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama — deserved more than two other figures now in prison.

Blagojevich’s predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, got 6 1/2 years on racketeering and fraud charges. And former Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko was sentenced last week to 10 1/2 years, minus time served, for fraud, money laundering and plotting to squeeze more than $7 million in kickbacks from companies seeking state business.

Prosecutors argued in their filing that Rezko got more than 10 years even though he was not an elected public official and offered some cooperation to investigators, while Blagojevich has maintained his innocence.

“Blagojevich engaged in extensive criminal conduct with and without Rezko, provided no cooperation, perjured himself for seven days on the witness stand, and has accepted no responsibility for his criminal conduct,” prosecutors said.

And Blagojevich, who campaigned as a reformer, was “acutely aware of the damage” Ryan had created, prosecutors said.

“As the chief executive of the state, Blagojevich was in a special position of responsibility to the public,” prosecutors said. “His abuse of office is particularly grave given the faith put in him by the citizens of Illinois.”

The former governor’s attorneys were expected to make their own recommendation Wednesday, ahead of Blagojevich’s sentencing by U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Dec. 6.

Most legal experts had predicted Zagel would hand down a prison term of about 10 years. But Rezko’s sentence, handed down by a different judge, may change Zagel’s calculus.

“I think there’s a good possibility that Mr. Blagojevich could get between 12 and 15 years,” said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago who is now a defense attorney. “I don’t think he’s going to get 20, though.”

Marcellus McRae, another former federal prosecutor who’s now a Los Angeles attorney, said Rezko’s sentence could become a useful comparison point for a judge looking to send a message against corruption.

“I think deterrence has got to be a significant part of this,” McRae said. “How many times has the public had this issue of public integrity and abuse of trust in front of them?”

Blagojevich was convicted at his first trial of lying to the FBI, but jurors deadlocked on the other charges. At his second trial this summer, he was convicted on 17 of 20 counts.

Federal wiretap tapes played in court captured an increasingly isolated and unpopular governor speaking excitedly in late 2008 about his power to name someone to Obama’s old Senate seat. Blagojevich famously called the seat “f—— golden” and resolved not to “give it up for … nothing.”

Prosecutors on Wednesday brought up other charges of misconduct, including attempted shakedowns of a children’s hospital CEO and racetrack executives and demands that the Chicago Tribune fire editorial board members in exchange for help with the sale of Wrigley Field.

Blagojevich has said that despite what he said on the tapes, his conduct was not illegal. As recently as last week, his attorneys asked Zagel to allow more wiretap tapes to be played at his sentencing. Zagel denied the request.

Prosecutors appeared to preemptively attack any argument that Blagojevich deserves leniency. They said he should not be seen as a family man and governor who helped the state, but as a common criminal. The former governor “appears to be committed to his wife and daughters,” prosecutors said, noting that defendants in other cases also often have families that suffer when they go to prison. And any good work he did as governor shouldn’t mitigate the charges against him, prosecutors argued.

“Many criminals are productive members of society, holding down jobs that they ably accomplish when they are not otherwise engaged in criminal activity,” they said.

Prosecutors also enclosed a packet of news releases and articles about other convicted public officials who were sent to prison for 15 years or more.

Associated Press


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