Politics

Rod Blagojevich arrest 5th anniversary: a look back

Monday, December 09, 2013

Five years ago Monday, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested at his Ravenswood home, beginning a journey that would put him behind bars.

Blagojevich is now serving his 14-year sentence for political corruption in Colorado. Last week, lawyers for Blagojevich filed papers for a new trial or shorter sentence. Tuesday is the former governor's 57th birthday.

At 6 a.m. December 9, five years ago, the phone rang in the Blagojevich household. The voice on the other end, Rob Grant, the FBI's special agent in charge, said "Governor, there are two agents at the door with a warrant for your arrest." Blagojevich asked, "Is this a joke?" It wasn't.

Off he went in his running clothes to FBI headquarters for a mugshot and then to court. The state's 40th governor was accused of trying to sell the Barack Obama Senate seat.

The U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald has left. So has the local head of the FBI. And Rod Blagojevich - after reality shows, Kipling quotes and two trials - is in a Colorado prison where he is said to be teaching history to fellow inmates.

"He's doing the best he can, but his hopes, his real hopes depend on this appeal, and I believe it'll pay off in the long run, and he believes that," said Sam Adam, Blagojevich attorney.

The Blagojevich appeal plays out Friday with oral arguments in a courtroom. The defense team contends that trial judge James Zagel unfairly curtailed what Blagojevich could say, the tapes he could play, jury instructions were flawed, and the sentence was way too long. Blago Trial #1 attorney Sam Adam said he wonders how does Congressman Jesse Jackson get three years after taking $750,000, and Blagojevich doesn't actually take money but gets 14. Adam predicts the appeals court will reverse the conviction and order Blagojevich Trial #3.

"I think that if I am wrong, he's got an excellent chance - 75 to 80 percnt of the sentence being cut," said Adam.

Prosecutors will argue Blagojevich was fully able to present his defense, that the jury instructions followed the letter of the law, and that Judge Zagel's sentencing decision was well within the defined federal guidelines. Judges in the 7th Circuit have reversed lower court decisions, but it does not happen very often. And the burden of the defense is to convince the three-judge panel that there were mistakes, and that they were significant enough to affect the outcome of the trial.

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