Rod Blagojevich corruption appeal to be heard by US appeals court

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich pictured in 2012 on his way to prison in Colorado. Charles Rex Arbogast / AP file

The case of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be back in court next month after a federal appeals court agreed Friday to hear arguments over whether to toss out his 2011 corruption conviction.

In a brief ruling filed Friday in 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago, the court set Dec. 13 for oral arguments on Blagojevich's contention that it should overturn his 14-year sentence to a federal penitentiary in Englewood, Colo.

The mop-haired former politician has argued that he was simply engaging in standard political horse-trading when he was recorded wheeling and dealing for money and possibly a Cabinet position in return for appointing Valerie Jarrett to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate in 2008.

"It's a f---ing valuable thing," he was heard saying in a recording of a phone call played in court. "You just don't give it away for nothing." 

"If I don't get what I want ... I'll just take the Senate seat myself," he was recorded saying.

Neither Jarrett — a senior adviser in the Obama White House — nor Obama have been accused of wrongdoing.

Blagojevich eventually ended up appointing Roland Burris. After a legal battle, the appointment was upheld, and Burris served a little less than two years in the Senate. Blagojevich was impeached and later prosecuted.

In an exhaustively detailed 169-page filing opposing Blagojevich's motion (PDF), Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Riggs Bonamici wrote that the "evidence was overwhelming" that Blagojevich broke the law by seeking to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder.

She also noted that evidence at Blagojevich's trial showed that he had also been offered $1.5 million in campaign contributions from supporters of then-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., if he would appoint Jackson to Obama's seat. 

"Blagojevich led, organized, and directed substantially more than five government and fundraising employees and outside consultants, whom he used to assist him in exchanging official acts for personal benefits," Bonamici wrote.


Former Illinois Gov. Blagojevich appeals corruption conviction, sentence