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Rod Blagojevich sentencing: Does he deserve at least 15 years in prison?

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Prosecutors “have the stronger hand” than Blagojevich’s defense team in swaying Judge Zagel to their side because “a lengthy sentence serves the metrics of both deterrence and punishment, and the defense has little or nothing to present to support a request for leniency,” says Marcellus McRae, a former US prosecutor based in Los Angeles.

The defense contends that, according to federal sentencing guidelines, Blagojevich should receive only a little more than four years. In court papers, the defense described Blagojevich as “a tragic figure; an impeached, unemployed criminal defendant, abandoned by all of this advisers and friends; a figure drawing public ridicule and scorn.”

Patrick Cotter, a former US prosecutor now in private practice in Chicago, says the defense calculations are “just wrong,” and that he suspects Zagel will sentence Blagojevich to 15 years. The reason: The federal trial of former Blagojevich fundraiser and Democratic Party power broker Tony Rezko resulted in a 10-year sentence two weeks ago, creating a baseline number for the Blagojevich sentencing.

Blagojevich will receive a lengthier sentence than Mr. Rezko, because the former governor’s case involved an abuse of the public trust, a longer period of criminal behavior, scheming involving more money, and a conviction of perjury, Mr. Cotter says.

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