Litigators for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich filed an appeal of his 14-year prison sentence on Monday, just 30 minutes before the midnight deadline.
Blagojevich was sentenced two years ago after jurors found the former governor guilty on 18 criminal counts of corruption over the course of two trials, including attempts to trade in Barack Obama’s newly emptied Senate seat for campaign contributions in 2008. Wiretaps and transcripts from phone calls also revealed that he threatened to cut financial ties with the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, unless editorial staff members who criticized his performance were fired.
During his 2011 trial, Blagojevich admitted to attempting to sell the highly sought Senate seat, but his talks never resulted in a transaction.
In 2009, Blagojevich was impeached and barred from ever again holding office in the state of Illinois, becoming the first Illinois governor to be impeached in the state’s history.
Attorneys for the former governor are now suggesting that the litany of errors stands with the heavily biased view of the man who upheld the court, U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who asked Blagojevich during the prosecution’s cross-examination if he was a “convicted liar.”
The appeal also attacked Zagel’s inability to properly explain laws behind extortion and bribery to the jury as they applied to Blagojevich, and criticized the judge for selecting a juror who was suspected to have already condemned Blagojevich’s actions. The judge also barred the former governor’s testimony, making him look foolish, according to his lawyers.
Blagojevich currently resides inside of a federal prison about ten miles from Denver, Colo., where he has spent the last 16 months learning to play the guitar, washing dishes, working at the library, jogging, and teaching fellow inmates about the Civil War.
Federal prosecutors are expected to file their response within 30 days to Blagojevich’s lawyers appeal. The process could then be moved to a three judge panel and would take months, possibly even years, to process.