In a filing Wednesday with the federal appeals court in Chicago, an attorney for Rod Blagojevich contends that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision supports the former governor’s position on a key issue in the appeal of his corruption conviction.
The filing by attorney Leonard Goodman comes seven months after a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held spirited oral arguments on Blagojevich’s appeal. No decision has been announced.
Over the course of two trials, Blagojevich was convicted on 18 corruption counts, including his attempt to obtain a job or campaign contributions in return for selling the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008.
Testifying in his own defense during his second trial in 2011, Blagojevich denied there was any quid pro quo for the Senate seat and dismissed the talks as “lengthy musings,” not serious proposals.
In Wednesday’s brief filing, Goodman alerted the appeals court to the decision in April by the nation’s highest court striking down limits on campaign contributions.
“The McCutcheon decision thus supports Blagojevich’s position that, where a criminal prosecution is based upon attempts to solicit campaign contributions, the government must prove a quid pro quo or explicit promise,” Goodman wrote.
The sometimes gray line between traditional political horse-trading and flat-out bribery took center stage during the appellate arguments in December. The former governor’s attorneys contended that U.S. District Judge James Zagel made a series of erroneous rulings at trial, including barring the playing of undercover recordings that the defense said would have shown that Blagojevich was acting in the public interest, not for private gain.
The former governor also alleged in his appeal that Zagel hamstrung his testimony at his second trial in 2011 by barring him at the last minute from telling jurors he thought his actions were lawful.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment on the filing, saying any response would be made to the appeals court in writing.
Blagojevich has served more than two years of his 14-year sentence at a federal prison near Denver.