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Blagojevich sought 'political deal ... in the public interest,' appeal says

The disgraced former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is appealing his conviction on corruption charges, arguing the judge barred evidence that put his actions in context.

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media outside his home in Chicago, as his wife Patti wipes away her tears a day before he was to report to a prison in Littleton, Colo., to begin a 14-year prison sentence on corruption charges, March 14, 2012. Blagojevich is appealing his conviction and prison sentence on corruption charges, arguing the judge barred evidence that put his actions in context.

M. Spencer Green/AP/File

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Attorneys for the disgraced former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, are appealing his conviction and prison sentence on corruption charges, arguing the judge barred evidence that put his actions in context.

The appeal, filed close to midnight Monday with the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, argues that Mr. Blagojevich’s conviction should be overturned because US District Judge James Zagel, who presided over the case, would not allow the full airing of FBI wiretap conversations they say would provide context to the prosecution’s assertion that the governor tried to sell President Obama’s former US Senate seat.

“The record shows that Blagojevich’s proposed exchange was an arm’s length political deal … between himself and Barack Obama which Blagojevich believed was not only lawful, but also in the public interest,” the appeal reads. “Blagojevich made no effort to conceal his plan but discussed it openly with his advisers and with an emissary sent by Obama to urge the selection of [White House advisor Valerie] Jarrett for the Senate.”

Blagojevich received a 14-year sentence and a $20,000 fine in December 2011 following the second of two federal trials in which he was found guilty of 14 counts of wire fraud, six counts of conspiracy and attempted extortion, one count of attempted bribery, and one count of making false statements. To date, he has served almost two years of his term while living in federal prison in Englewood, Colo. He was arrested in December 2008.

Throughout the trial, Blagojevich and his team argued that he was merely engaged in conversations related to horse-trading among interested parties for the Senate seat, and that he did not personally profit from those conversations.

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