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Updated 12/5/11 – 6:04 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – One day before Rod Blagojevich’s sentencing hearing was set to begin, federal prosecutors reasserted that the former governor has never accepted responsibility for his crimes and urged the judge to reject Blagojevich’s push for leniency.
In a filing on Monday, federal prosecutors said the sentencing recommendation filed by Blagojevich’s defense team continued to assert his innocence and made a number of contradictory statements about his actions as governor.
“Many of the arguments in Blagojevich’s Sentencing Memorandum are actually claims that he is ‘innocent’ of the crimes of which the jury convicted him,” prosecutors wrote. “In making these arguments, Blagojevich ignores and deprecates the evidence in this case, which led the jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
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After two trials, Blagojevich has been convicted of 18 corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.
Blagojevich’s sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin on Tuesday and U.S. District Judge James Zagel has said his ruling will come no earlier than Wednesday. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 15-20 years, while defense attorneys are seeking probation.
Although there has been little indication what Blagojevich will say on his own behalf, defense team filings before the sentencing make it appear unlikely that Blagojevich will express remorse or accept responsibility for his crimes.
CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller says that, even though saying he’s sorry is virtually the only thing Blagojevich can say to help his cause, given his repeated media blitzes to deny any wrongdoing and attack the prosecution for its handling of the case, Miller says Blagojevich won’t express remorse when he addresses the judge.
“The only thing that he could say that would make a difference is, ‘I’m sorry. I did wrong, and I accept responsibility,’” Miller said. “He will never, ever say that.”
In its latest filing, the government pointed out that, in seeking leniency, Blagojevich sought credit for his good deeds as governor, based on initiatives that he led as governor, but at the same time tried to claim he was not a leader in the criminal activity he was convicted of, instead arguing he was led astray by his advisers and never intended to break the law.
But prosecutors dismissed that argument as ridiculous.
“Blagojevich alternatively portrays himself as a visionary leader, personally responsible for securing passage of legislation that benefitted disadvantaged citizens, but also a merely ‘nominal’ leader who in truth was controlled by those who purportedly worked under his supervision,” prosecutors wrote. “Blagojevich’s depiction of himself as a victim of unscrupulous ‘advisors’ is contradicted by the mountains of evidence that Blagojevich’s submission utterly ignores.”
In their push for leniency, defense attorneys pointed to a number of Blagojevich’s legislative initiatives, such as expanding access to health care for Illinois children and providing free rides on public transit for seniors.
At the same time, they also argued that Blagojevich never intended to cross any legal lines and relied on the advice of aides who either lied to him or failed to tell him his ideas could be illegal.
“Blagojevich spends pages of his submission extolling legislative accomplishments, claiming that he personally ‘secured passage of,’ ‘arranged,’ and ‘succeeded’ in obtaining legislation that benefitted Illinois citizens,” Prosecutors wrote. “According to Blagojevich, he was personally ‘responsible’ for these accomplishments. … But, when it comes to the issues at the core of his criminal convictions, Blagojevich claims he was responsible for nothing, arranged nothing, and was simply a tool of those whom he supervised.”
Prosecutors also sought to shoot down Blagojevich’s contention that he never benefitted financially from his crimes, arguing that Blagojevich fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko arranged for more than $100,000 in payments to Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, for a no-show job.
They also argued it didn’t matter that Blagojevich never received any campaign contributions from the people he was accused of shaking down, only that he made the extortion attempts.
“Blagojevich’s failure to obtain money was not for lack of trying, and thus in no way detracts from his culpability,” prosecutors wrote. “Blagojevich put on hold efforts to obtain $1.5 million in campaign contribution bribes for the Senate seat only after a newspaper report indicated his conversations might have been recorded.”
Prosecutors said Blagojevich’s sentencing recommendation goes only to show that he continues to deny any responsibility for his convictions.
“Blagojevich’s utter failure to accept any responsibility for his criminal conduct directs that leniency is inappropriate,” prosecutors wrote.
–Todd Feurer, CBS 2 Web Producer