What's All This Then?

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Tomorrow, Judge James Zabel will begin a TWO DAY sentencing "hearing" as the final chapter of ex Governor Rob Blagojevich’s two trials and multiple convictions for a variety of crimes that I won’t bother to try to list here. Anyone interested can find them easily on line. Why there has to be a "hearing" and why it should take two days to sentence Blago to a lengthy jail term is beyond me. I would bet what I have left of my eye teeth that Zabel has long since decided how much time he is going to dish out and that his sentencing speech has long been written with all of the "i’s" dotted and all the "t’s" crossed. From what I’ve heard about the procedure, it’s going to be a two day circus because Blago has decided to make a statement.

Since the conviction, Blago’s lawyers have filed appeals - among other things accusing Zabel of being prejudiced against their client - in effect acting like an extension of the prosecuting team. I got the same impression of the judge just reading about his rulings. But the appeal was presented to the same judge who was being accused of being less than fair - and surprise, surprise, Mr. Zabel disagreed . He gave Blago every possible chance to prove his innocence. Like allowing his lawyers to ask some questions but not ones that I, as a layman, might have asked. Like letting the prosecution play as many taped phone conversations as they wanted to but not allowing Blago to play any that might have made him look good - or at least not criminal. Not relevant said the judge And now Blago wants to make a statement - presumably to try to persuade Zabel to give him a break - to sentence him to something less that a multiple of the ten years that Blago and Obama’s friend and supporter Tony Rezko got from another judge just days ago. But having watched the ex-Governor perform in public since his indictment and on the stand at his second trial, there is no way that he is going to stand before Zabel and admit guilt and accept responsibility - which the pundits are telling us would be the only way he could hope to get a year or two knocked off what Zabel has decided to give him. It’s not in his nature. But there is something that he could say that might help him without admitting guilt. His lawyers may not be advising him to say what I think he could say - but if they had more common sense that they have displayed so far in their defense of Blago, they’d follow my idea of what to say. Something along the lines of the following.

"Your honor, I stand here convicted of 18 criminal counts for which I take full responsibility. No one else was responsible for my actions as Governor of the State of Illinois. But your honor, I want you and all who may hear or read what I say here today that in my mind and in my heart, I am not a criminal. A jury of my peers has determined that I committed crimes while in office, but I say to you and to those good jurors that never did I believe that the activities alleged as crimes in my indictment were criminal activities. I am guilty of being vane - of being overly ambitious - of trying to cut corners to obtain political advantages - of indulging in flights of fancy about what I might be able to achieve - and above all for talking too much about too many things. But never did I believe that I was committing crimes, whether it was in the area of fund raising or in discussing - again too much - the appointment of someone to fill President Obama’s Senate seat for the unfinished portion of his term. I guess I was schooled in the rough and tumble of what is now looked upon as "old time" politics and it was my mistake not to recognize that that time has passed.

Because of that lack of understanding, I stand here today a ruined man. I have been disgraced before my colleagues, the people of this state and this country. I acquired no wealth from the matters for which I was convicted. I am virtually penniless. I have lost my license to practice law. My wife and small children are about to lose our home and if I am incarcerated, they will have no visible means of support. I implore you take these matters into consideration in your sentence and to show mercy."

Short and to the point. I would be shocked beyond belief if Blago would take so little time to say whatever he plans to say. Again, it’s not in his nature. But today he will likely suffer because of a ridiculous concept that a convicted felon must admit guilt and express contrition in order to be considered for a lesser sentence or for parole from a jail term. There are people serving time who are innocent. There are people who, rightly or wrongly are convicted but who believe they did nothing wrong. But under out system of justice, none of this matters. Guilty or innocent or belief of innocence - none of it matters. To be shown any mercy, admission of guilt and expression of remorse is required of the applicant. There is no way that Blagho will admit guilt and express remorse. The closest he might come would be to say something like what I’ve written above. But as I’ve said, it’s not in his nature.

Bye bye Blago.