Robert Blagojevich: Rod Is “Holding Up Very Well”
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Rod Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, said the former governor was “holding up very well” on Thursday, a day after a federal judge sentenced him to 14 years in prison for his convictions on 18 fraud charges.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov talked to Robert Blagojevich about the sentence his brother received and to defense attorneys about what’s next for the disgraced ex-governor.
No one was answering the door at Rod Blagojevich’s house in Ravenswood Manor on Thursday, but some Chicagoans were stopping by with gifts or to extend their support.
The reality of Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year prison sentence is likely sinking in on Thursday.
His brother, Robert Blagojevich, called the sentence harsh and severe.
“It seems as though that sentence is extremely harsh and over the top and just not fair.” Robert Blagojevich said of the 14-year prison term his brother is facing. “There are people … who did a lot more and got less and I just don’t understand where fairness comes into our justice system, because I always thought that our justice system was about fairness and not about over-reaching punishment.”
Robert Blagojevich was charged along with his brother in the former governor’s scheme to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
Robert was tried with Rod Blagojevich at the first trial last summer, but jurors deadlocked on all the charges against Robert Blagojevich and prosecutors dropped the charges against him soon after.
Robert Blagojevich moved back to Nashville after the charges were dropped and stayed there for his brother’s sentencing, but talked to Rod on Thursday.
Robert said he didn’t want to talk about the nature of their conversation.
“But I will say that he’s remarkably strong and holding up very well,” Robert said. “He is doing remarkably well under the circumstances and seems to be very grounded in what he’s got to confront and face. Most of all he’s concerned about his daughters and being away from them and not being there for them as a father. … He’s doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.”
After the sentencing on Wednesday, Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers indicated they will appeal the conviction and sentence and Robert said he thinks they should.
Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein said they expect to file a notice of appeal by next week.
“Hopefully this appeal will give him another opportunity to speak to his lack of criminal intent. I mean, in no way do I believe my brother tried to break the law. I believe contrary,” Robert Blagojevich said of a potential appeal.
Ultimately, defense attorneys said the appeal will likely focus on claims of judicial bias from U.S. District Judge James Zagel – more specifically Blagojevich’s rights to testify and put on an effective defense, the defense’s ability to play certain tapes, errors in jury selection and the fact that jury instructions changed from the first trial to the second trial.
“There’s no way I believe my brother had criminal intent and intentionally tried to break the law and I’ll just leave it at that,” Robert said. “I’m not going to judge the process and the jury and the judge, but I know my brother and there’s no way I believe that he had criminal intent to do anything improper.”
Asked about Rod’s apology to him during his address to the judge on Wednesday, Robert said he didn’t think his brother owed him one.
In his allocution, Rod Blagojevich said, “I want to apologize to my brother, my brother is a good man. I want to apologize to his family. I want to apologize for getting him into this whole thing.”
Robert said it was very touching and generous for his brother to offer that apology.
“I’ve only cried three times in 25 years … when my father died, when my mother died and I cried for my brother yesterday when I was told that he had made that comment and made those comments in court,” Robert said.
“I just don’t think that it’s necessary for me to offer forgiveness for my brother. He and I … I did nothing wrong with him and there’s no need for him to ask for my forgiveness, certainly not publicly,” Robert added. “He gets a lot of benefit of the doubt with me. Always has and always will.”
There was more bad news for Rod Blagojevich on Thursday. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a legal opinion telling the state’s General Assembly Retirement System that Blagojevich is no longer eligible for his state pension now that he’s been sentenced for his criminal convictions.
The former governor is scheduled to report to prison on Feb. 16.