Blago lawyer: ‘We accept the fact that’s a crime’

Rod Blagojevich
( Paul Beaty / Associated Press ) – Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich tries to talk with the media as he is led away by wife Patti, as they leave their home heading to federal court for his sentencing hearing in Chicago, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. Blagojevich was convicted earlier this year on 18 corruption counts, including trying to auction off President Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat.

Chicago Tribune on December 6, 2011 released the following:

“Lawyers for Rod Blagojevich appear to have changed tactics this afternoon, conceding the former governor committed crimes but arguing that a 15-year prison sentence would be far too severe for such wrongdoing.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel has heard from three Blagojevich lawyers this afternoon, including one who told the judge to try to look past all of the technical arguments on sentencing guidelines and think about what Blagojevich was convicted of.

Sheldon Sorosky told the judge Blagojevich committed four wrongs, chiefly the attempted sale of the Senate seat held by Barack Obama until his election as president. Blagojevich made a mistake by asking for a job in return for possibly appointing Obama’s friend, Valerie Jarrett to the Senate, Sorosky said.

“We accept the fact that’s a crime. It’s illegal. He should not have done it,” Sorosky said. “That crime does not call for a 15-year jail sentence.”

A second Blagojevich lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, then argued that general deterrence should not factor into the punishment given the former governor.

“I would suggest your honor that it does work,” said Goldstein, rattling off a series of public corruption cases in which politicians who pocketed tens of thousands of dollars received shorter sentences than what the government is proposing for Blagojevich.

Blagojevich doesn’t warrant punishment anywhere near the 15 to 20 years in prison that the government is seeking, Goldstein said. Even if Blagojevich gets a 5-year prison term, no other politician is going to think he got away with a free pass, he said.

Prosecutors have cited Blagojevich’s publicity campaigns as something the court might consider in handing down a sentence. But Goldstein said Blagojevich said things he was entitled to say in the media and some other things that maybe he shouldn’t have said, but in no way did Blagojevich intend to attack Zagel as a judge or the court process.

Goldstein also encouraged Zagel to consider certain figures in the investigation who were never charged despite their wrongdoing, citing Raghu Nayak and Rajinder Bedi, who allegedly offered $1.5 million in exchange for appointing U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat.

The government thinks of Blagojevich as a shark, he said.

“But he wasn’t swimming with guppies,” Goldstein told the court.

Another lawyer for Blagojevich, Carolyn Gurland, asked Zagel not to sentence Blagojevich to a stiff term to send a broader message to other politicians. Blagojevich should not be given more years because it seems that prosecutions of public corruption cases have done little to stop elected officers from crossing the line, she said.

Blagojevich should be considered alone and not sentenced for the “historical political corruption in Illinois or anywhere else,” she said. “He is an individual who has and will suffer his punishment as an individual.”

All of it should be weighed against what will be suffered by “a man and his family,” Gurland said.

Zagel asked the lawyers exactly what sentence they were recommending because a specific request for probation was not part of defense filings even though that’s what the former governor’s legal team had been calling for weeks.

Goldstein avoided asking for probation, telling the judge the defense seeks “the lowest sentence possible.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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