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The [Monday] Papers

"Rod Blagojevich was really hoping a federal appeals court last week would put a hold on his resentencing, but the court said forget that," the Sun-Times editorial page says.

"So before Judge James B. Zagel hands down a new sentence, which could come any day, allow us to say it short and sweet one last time: Give Governor Goof a fairer shake."

Uh-oh. Here we go. Rod Blagojevich was just a "goof" who deserves a "fairer shake." OK.

"Fourteen years in prison is a long time for a man who has always been more foolish than venal, more delusional than dangerous."

Really?

The guy was governor for (almost) two terms before he was impeached. The damage he did to the state goes far beyond that of a delusional, foolish man. Venal is exactly the word to describe him. To wit:

The questioning of onetime Deputy Gov. Robert Greenlee moves to Children's Memorial Hospital. Blagojevich is accused of shaking down the hospital's CEO for a campaign contribution in exchange for authorizing state funding. When he didn't get his campaign contribution, he allegedly held up the funding.

Greenlee explained that in the fall of 2008, he met with the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital and others to discuss state funding to help pay for a possible rate increase.

"As a result of that . . . it would allow the hospital to provide more services to sick kids," Greenlee said. "One of our stated goals as an administration was to get health care to all children."

Rod Blagojevich then called Greenlee about the possible rate increase.

"I recall that he called me out of the blue and asked if I had talked about Children's Memorial Hospital about rate increases. I told him it would cost $8 million to $10 million."

Greenlee said it represented a tiny slice of the budget.

"When he said we should look into doing it, I understood: 'Get it moving."

Later, Blagojevich calls Greenlee again, on Nov. 12, 2008.

Blagojevich: "Pediatric doctors, the reimbursement. Has that gone out yet, or is that still on hold?"

Blagojevich also asked if the governor's office had total discretion over it.

Blagojevich: "So we can pull it back if we need to, budgetary concerns, right?"

Greenlee: "We sure could."

Blagojevich: "Ok, that's good to know."

Greenlee testified he took the conversation to mean he shouldn't set aside money for the hospital, so he made a call and held it up.

Greenlee said it was an unusual request.

"In the context of health care initiatives I never heard him use budget as a reason not to more forward," Greenlee said.

Prosecutor Reid Schar noted it remained that way as of Dec. 9, 2008 - the day the governor was arrested.

And then:

A different witness is up, but government prosecutors are staying on the same theme: Children's Memorial Hospital.

The hospital's CEO, Patrick Magoon, is now testifying about a pediatric rate increase he sought in the fall of 2008. Prosecutors contend Magoon was shaken down for a campaign contribution after he asked for state help at his institution.

In testimony, Magoon said he reached out to then-Gov. Blagojevich via letter seeking the rate increase and heard nothing back. Blagojevich was in control of the rate increase, which went to doctors who treated Medicaid patients at Children's.

He then asked former Cubs manager Dusty Baker to talk to Blagojevich, a Cubs fan. That got a response and eventually, Magoon got a call from Blagojevich himself in October of 2008.

Blagojevich told him he'd get the rate increase but he asked him not to make the decision public until after Jan. 1 of the following year.

"Only five days had lapsed," according to Magoon, and he got a second call.

This time it was from Blagojevich's brother, Rob, who also happened to be the head of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund.

He asked Magoon to kick in $25,000 to his brother's campaign fund. And he asked that it be done before . . . Jan. 1st.

"From my perspective, the two were linked and one, in my point of view, was in exchange for another," Magoon told Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner.

Magoon said he told Rob Blagojevich to call him on another line, it was inappropriate conversation at work. But he didn't flag to Rob that he wouldn't contribute.

"That would be tantamount to telling him that his brother were doing something inappropriate or illegal," Magoon said. If he spoke up, Magoon said he feared the rate increase "would not have been approved.

By the way, isn't that the sainted Robert Blagojevich participating in the conspiracy?

*

Back to the Sun-Times editorial:

"Former Gov. George Ryan got 6 1/2 years for much more outrageous bribery crimes - he was seriously on the take - and nobody doubts Ryan knew perfectly well he was breaking the law. There are days when we wonder if Blagojevich knows anything."

Maybe Ryan got off easy. But I don't see his crimes as any more outrageous than Blagojevich's; in fact, Blagojevich should have known better coming into office as Ryan was on his way to prison!

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"When the appellate court last month threw out five of the 18 criminal counts on which the former governor had been convicted, along with the original sentence, the court made clear it would be perfectly OK from a legal standpoint for Zagel to re-impose the full 14-year stretch. But a sentence closer to Ryan's 6 1/2 years strikes us as more proportionate to the crime."

Based on what - feel?

This is also what the court made clear:

The evidence, much of it from Blagojevich's own mouth, is overwhelming . . . The district judge concluded that the Sentencing Guidelines recommend a range of 360 months to life imprisonment for Blagojevich's offenses, and the actual sentence is 168 months. Instead of expressing relief, Blagojevich maintains that the sentence is too high because the range was too high . . .

Any error in the Guidelines calculation went in Blagojevich's favor. After calculating the 360 to life range, the judge concluded that it is too high and began making reductions, producing a range of 151 to 188 months. For example, the judge gave Blagojevich a two-level reduction for accepting responsibility, see U.S.S.G. 3E1.1, and took off two more for good measure, even though he pleaded not guilty, denied culpability at two lengthy trials, and even now contends that the evidence is insufficient on every count and that he should have been acquitted across the board. That's the antithesis of accepting responsibility.

The judge reduced the range further by deciding not to count all of the $1.5 million as loss, even though he had decided earlier that it is the right figure.

Blagojevich has already gotten quite a generous deal. He also still shows no signs of remorse. And the evidence quite clearly shows that he knew exactly what he was doing. Why is the Sun-Times doing his bidding? Given that paper's history, it's fair to wonder if the hand of Michael Ferro is behind this.

(By the way if you click through on that link, you'll see it's easy to miss on his Wikipedia page that Ferro owns the Sun-Times.)

*

Back to the edit:

"Blagojevich is guilty, no doubt. Governors aren't supposed to squeeze people for campaign money or a big job, at least not directly, in return for appointing somebody to a senate seat, as this governor tried to do. And let us not forget how he tried to blackmail a hospital and a racetrack owner into making big campaign donations, in addition to other cheesy offenses."

Cheesy is a word, like goof, that is intended to diminish the seriousness of these schemes. I for one, though, don't see how you can describe shaking down a children's hospital as "cheesy."

*

"But if Zagel reimposes the full 14 years, Blagojevich will sit in a prison for a little over 12 years - assuming the usual time off - almost double the time Ryan served."

The federal guidelines for Ryan called for an eight-to-10-year sentence. He got a break, too. But according to the guidelines, Blagojevich's crimes were much worse.

*

"Former Gov. Otto Kerner, convicted in a racetrack stock scandal, served just over seven months, partly because then-prosecutor and later Gov. James R. Thompson thought the conviction itself was a severe punishment."

Kerner's case is a particularly bad comparison; he was convicted in a single case of corruption, not putting Illinois up "for sale to family and friends" (George Ryan) or engaging in a "political corruption crime spree" (Blagojevich).

*

"Fourteen years for Rod Blagojevich is overkill, always has been."

Not as long as there are apologists like the Sun-Times around.

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See also: Blago Ruling Indicts Media.

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The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Will appear tonight or tomorrow.

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Permalink

Posted on August 31, 2015


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