Rod Blagojevich, the jailed former Illinois governor who once commanded record pluralities in state elections and envisioned himself as presidential timber, saw his longshot-bid for freedom reduced to a "rejected" list Monday at the United States Supreme Court.
The high court, without comment, turned down Blagojevich’s appeal, leaving intact the 14-year sentence he received for, among other things, attempting to make deals for the Senate seat once occupied by President Barack Obama. It was the last mile of the former governor’s appellate road, but there is one narrow legal avenue remaining.
Blagojevich was convicted on a total of 18 counts, but last year, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed five of those and ordered that the former governor be resentenced. That would appear to be his only avenue of redemption at this stage, but the resentencing will come at the hands of the judge who sent him to prison in the first place, United States District Judge James Zagel.
Blagojevich has been neither seen nor heard since he surrendered to the federal correctional facility in Englewood, Colorado four years ago. Last August, he released a statement through his attorneys expressing hope that he would one day be vindicated.
"These have been hard years for my family — for our children and for my wife, Patti and me," he wrote. "Yet we continue to have faith in the truth; in the righteousness of our cause; in the rule of law and in America; in each other; and, most of all, in God."
Blagojevich declared in that statement, "I must fight on."
"Fundraising is the job of every politician," he said. "The jury instructions used to convict me in my case are not the law. It makes the standard so low that any politician can be jailed at the whim of an ambitious prosecutor."
It has been widely believed that Zagel was waiting for the Supreme Court to act before scheduling Blagojevich’s resentencing. But even that proceeding may offer little solace for the former governor, as the appellate court provided plenty of cover for Zagel to keep the present sentence intact.
"It is not possible to call 168 months unlawfully high for Blagojevich’s crimes," they wrote, "but the district judge should consider on remand whether it is the most appropriate sentence."
Blagojevich's wife, Patti Blagojevich, said she was "disappointed" by the decision, but noted it was "not entirely unexpected."
"We are hopeful that after the governor is resentenced, as a result of a federal appeals court tossing out five of the counts against him, that the highest court may be moved to take the case then," she said in a statement. “This was, of course, not the outcome that Rod, our daughters Amy and Annie, had hoped and prayed for. But we continue to have faith in the system and an unshakable love for Rod. We long for the day that he will be back home with us.”
Blagojevich has eight years remaining on his sentence. He is due to be released in May 2024.
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