Court of Appeals Threw Out Several Corruption Counts
A criminal appeals court is set to hear arguments in the resentencing hearing for former governor Rod Blagojevich on August 9, according to The Associated Press. The court will decide whether to reduce the sentence of 14 years in prison that a federal district court handed down in 2011. Blagojevich originally received the sentence after the district court convicted him of 18 counts of corruption. Last year, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals threw out five of the counts of corruption that the district court conviction contained. Blagojevich has already served four years of the original sentence. His lawyers will argue that the sentence should be reduced to five years total, leaving only one more year.
District Court Convicted Blagojevich of Attempting to Sell Senate Seat
CNN reports that the corruption charges that the criminal appeal deals with originated from Blagojevich’s attempt to sell Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat in 2008. The counts included wire fraud, extortion, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes. When Barack Obama won the 2008 election and became the next President of the United States, he resigned from his post as United States Senator from Illinois in the middle of his term. The Illinois Constitution allows the Governor of Illinois to appoint a replacement senator in this situation. Blagojevich sought an appointee who would agree to provide some form of kickback, including contributions to Blagojevich’s campaign, appointing him to a lucrative non-profit post, or appointing his wife to a corporate board.
Federal Appellate Courts Have Broad Authority to Change Convictions
If a federal court convicts a defendant of a crime, the defendant can appeal to a federal appeals court. The court can hear any errors that the district court committed during the original trial if those errors substantially affected the rights of the defendant. The appeals court can send the case back to the district court with instructions for retrying the case, or it can directly change the outcome by reducing the sentence, throwing out specific counts, or even reversing the whole conviction.
Bad Jury Instructions Led Court to Throw Out Convictions
As The Chicago Tribune points out, some of the corruption counts that the appeals court threw out were related to Blagojevich’s attempt to sell Obama’s senate seat. The problem with these convictions was that the instructions to the jury in the original federal district court trial were not sufficiently specific. The instructions to the jury for whether or not Blagojevich was guilty of attempting to sell Obama’s senate seat would have treated all kickbacks alike, but the appeals court ruled that only specific kinds of kickbacks (like the award of private sector jobs) would count as crimes. The appeals court threw out the convictions that used vague jury instructions. Now the district court has to decide whether this change in the convictions means that Blagojevich should serve less time.
Get Legal Help
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted of a crime, you need expert legal help. Get in touch with an experienced criminal appeals attorney at Barney & Hourihane in Chicago today to get the justice you deserve.
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