By Jim Hagerty
Attorneys for the imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ,on Friday, Dec. 13, appeared in court to appeal his conviction on corruption charges, but a decision on whether he will be granted a retrial won’t be announced for weeks.
Friday’s hearing at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago centered on Attorney Leonard Goodman’s motion to overturn Blagojevich’s conviction because the former Democrat is innocent. Goodman’s team wants the three-judge panel to hear restricted wiretapped conversations, lawyers believe will show Blagojevich did not intend to profit from the scandals that resulted in his impeachment and subsequent 14-year prison sentence.
Goodman charged that U.S. District Judge James Zagel denied Blagojevich a fair trail when he barred the wiretap evidence he says proves Blagojevich was not involved in shakedown schemes, but was dabbling in common “political horse trading.”
Judge Frank Easterbrook didn’t seem to fall for the seeming attempt to split hairs and challenged Goodman’s interpretation of criminal intent, asking if it is written anywhere in the law that intent is required to be willful.
“Does any statute have the word willful in it?” Easterbrook asked.
“No, it does not,” Goodman replied.
The exchange didn’t seem to shake the defense, yet Goodman refused to indicate whether he believes the court would decide in his favor. After the hearing, Goodman told reporters it is impossible to predict how the judges will rule.
“We’ll know in a month or so,” Goodman said.
If the court denies Blagojevich a new trial, petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court would be his only remaining option at early freedom.
Patti Blagojevich also addressed the panel, expressing her family’s sorrow at the former governor’s absence during the holidays.
“Good morning. Here we are again,” she said. “I just want to say during this holiday season that there isn’t a day or moment that goes by that my daughters and I don’t feel the emptiness of the absence of my husband. We just hope and pray that he will be home soon with his family.”
June 27, 2011, Rod Blagojevich was convicted on 17 counts of corruption, including an attempt to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama.
Blagojevich, 57, was found guilty of 10 counts of wire fraud, two counts of attempted extortion, two counts of conspiracy to solicit a bribe, one count of solicitation of a bribe and two counts of conspiracy to commit extortion.
Blagojevich is 19 months into his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colo.