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Blagojevich sentencing: What to expect

Monday, December 05, 2011
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A two-day sentencing hearing for Rod Blagojevich gets under way Tuesday. What will the former governor face during the hearing, and what will he say to the judge deciding how much time he will spend in prison?

From the day of his arrest, Blagojevich has proclaimed his innocence -- when he was thrown out of office, when he did his tour of network shows, when he took the stand for seven days at his second trial -- so, it is not likely that whatever he chooses to say Tuesday will deviate much from what he has already said.

The question is, does Blagojevich accept any responsibility or deliver a message of defiance?

Tuesday, Blagojevich will address the judge who will sentence him. The ex-governor, based on defense motions, will ask for a lenient sentence in part for his wife and two daughters. But he is also expected to portray himself as the victim of the misdeeds of others.

Blagojevich's last court filing says his advisors "poorly and improperly encouraged him, directed him, used him, lied to him, embarrassed him." In other words, their actions caused the investigation that ruined his career and life.

That claim may not sit well with Judge James Zagel.

"If he keeps professing his innocence, the judge may well say I need to give you a bigger sentence so you will realize and the world will realize that you're guilty," said former prosecutor Ron Safer.

Prosecutors, in a motion filed Monday, say that Blagojevich's "utter failure to accept any responsibility" means that "a lenient sentence would be inappropriate."

The judge has said that he won't announce his decision until Wednesday, suggesting, to many, that he wants his sentencing message to stand apart from whatever the ex-governor chooses to say in court Tuesday.

"I think he believes and I agree with him -- if he does -- that this is different. This requires an explicit and firm message from the bench," said Safer.

Blagojevich's lawyers have asked for permission to play snippets of 20 tape recordings they believe are beneficial to the ex-governor. It is not yet known whether that will be allowed.

The defense has argued for a "compassionate" sentence. The prosecution wants a 15-to-20 year prison term. And they said again Monday that if Blagojevich contends he did nothing wrong, but blames underlings he named and supervised for his guilty verdict, that argues for a sentence stiffer than what has been widely expected.

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