Criminal Justice

Prosecutors Seek 15-to-20-Year Sentence for Blagojevich

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Citing the “enormous damage” they said he did to public confidence in state government, federal prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence corrupt former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to between 15 and 20 years in prison.

But defense lawyers are seeking leniency for the 54-year-old former governor, saying that he only “followed the law as he understood it to be.”

Blagojevich, who was convicted earlier this year on 18 counts of corruption, including charges that he tried to sell then President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat in 2008, faces sentencing next week. The two sides filed their sentencing briefs Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Blagojevich deserves a stiff sentence because he seriously ravaged public confidence in government, was corrupt even before he became governor in 2003 and failed to be deterred by the 6½ year prison term given his predecessor, ex-Gov. George Ryan, who was also convicted of corruption, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Prosecutors also say Blagojevich has refused to accept any responsibility for his criminal conduct, has repeatedly obstructed justice and has engaged in other unspecified actions that have further eroded respect for the law.

Besides citing his apparent ignorance of the law, defense lawyers cited Blagojevich’s devotion to his wife and children as further grounds for leniency.

Defense lawyer Carolyn Gurland said the government wanted Blagojevich to pay for the sins of all corrupt Illinois politicians, not just his own.

“Under the law, defendants are to be sentenced as individuals, not symbols or sound bites,” she said.

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