Allegations of political wrongdoing can come from all levels of government: federal, state, and local. Some of them can even land an official in jail, which is what happened to Illinois' former Governor Rod Blagojevich a few years ago.
The former Governor became famous (infamous?) for his hair, his wife's stint on a reality show, his difficult-to-pronounce name, and more importantly, allegations that he tried to trade his appointment power over President Obama's vacated senate seat. The latter landed him in prison, convicted of 18 crimes, including attempted extortion, solicitation of funds, wire fraud, and lying to federal investigators. He was sentenced to 168 months imprisonment, and he appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Monday, the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion on his appeal, and reversed 5 of his convictions and vacated his sentence. USA v. Blagojevich. Specially, the appellate court found that the jury instructions on the count relating to Blagojevich's proposal to appoint Valerie Jarrett to the Senate in exchange for an appointment to the Cabinet were improper because the instructions did not distinguish between a proposal to trade one public act for another (a form of logrolling, which is not illegal) and a swap of an official act for private payment (which is illegal). Because it was not clear that the jury would understand the difference between the illegal and legal actions, the court reversed the five counts related to this jury instruction.
The court rejected Blagojevich argument that his 168 month sentence was too long, noting that the recommended range for sentencing was 360 months to life imprisonment.
Based on the reversal of five of his convictions, this case will now go back to the district court for resentencing. The federal government could choose to retry him on the five counts, but that may not be very likely given that his sentence of 168 months is still within the sentencing range, even removing these 5 convictions.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf