CHICAGO — Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich deserves a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison for his convictions on corruption charges, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Prosecutors said Blagojevich, who was convicted of 18 corruption-related counts including that he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, should receive more time than his predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, and a key former fundraiser, Tony Rezko.
Ryan is serving 6 1/2 years on racketeering and fraud charges. Rezko was sentenced last week to 10 1/2 years, minus time served, on convictions for fraud, money laundering and plotting to squeeze more than $7 million in kickbacks from companies seeking state business.
Blagojevich, who is to be sentenced next week, had campaigned as a reformer following Ryan and “was acutely aware of the damage” Ryan had caused, prosecutors said. And Blagojevich was an elected official, unlike Rezko, who also offered limited cooperation to the government, they said.
“As the chief executive of the state, Blagojevich was in a special position of responsibility to the public,” prosecutors said. “His abuse of office is particularly grave given the faith put in him by the citizens of Illinois.”
Blagojevich, 54, was convicted at two trials of 18 counts, including lying to the FBI. His attorneys are expected to make their own sentencing recommendation later Wednesday, ahead of Blagojevich’s sentencing by U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Dec. 6.
Prosecutors appeared to preemptively attack any argument that Blagojevich deserves leniency. They said he should not be seen as a family man and governor who helped the state, but as a common criminal. The former governor “appears to be committed to his wife and daughters,” prosecutors said, noting that defendants in other cases also often have families that suffer when they go to prison. And any good work he did as governor shouldn’t mitigate the charges against him, prosecutors argued.
“Many criminals are productive members of society, holding down jobs that they ably accomplish when they are not otherwise engaged in criminal activity,” they said.
Prosecutors also enclosed a packet of news releases and articles about other convicted public officials who were sent to prison for 15 years or more.