Former Illinois Gov Blagojevich again appeals prison term

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CHICAGO (AP) — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is asking a U.S. appeals court to nullify his 14-year prison term and order a third sentencing hearing, with a lawyer arguing on his behalf that the Democrat's model behavior behind bars and other factors justified a reduction in his sentence.

Attorneys for the Chicago Democrat filed the appeal late Tuesday night with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The filing comes in the wake of Blagojevich's resentencing on Aug. 9, when trial Judge James Zagel refused to lower the original 14-year sentence.

The 7th Circuit had ordered that August resentencing after tossing five of Blagojevich's 18 convictions in 2015. The 60-year-old's remaining convictions include trying to trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat for campaign cash.

Prosecutors will have a chance to respond to the filing and oral arguments would then be schedule before a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based appellate court.

The latest appeal argues that Zagel should have considered Blagojevich's good behavior in prison, citing more than 100 letters from fellow inmates who describe Blagojevich helping them, including as a history tutor and in advising them on how to land a job once their released.

"The effect of (Judge Zagel's) ruling was to say to the defendant, 'no matter how hard you try or what you achieve, I will never alter my opinion of you,'" Blagojevich attorney, Leonard Goodman, wrote in the more than 50-page filing.

Many of the letters portrayed Blagojevich — known as brash in his days as governor — as humble and self-effacing, as well as an insightful life coach and lecturer on everything from the Civil War to Richard Nixon.

Zagel said at the August resentencing that he had gone through all the letters. But he said Blagojevich's fellow inmates had not seen the same evidence jurors saw of Blagojevich's corruption. And he Blagojevich's exemplary behavior behind bars wasn't relevant to deciding the right punishment.

This appeal, as previous ones, is a long shot. In its ruling last year, the 7th Circuit stated that — even with the five tossed counts — reimposing the same 14-year sentence could be entirely appropriate. So, it seems unlikely they'll now criticize Judge Zagel for doing just that.

The now white-haired Blagojevich attended the sentence through a video line from his federal prison in Colorado, apologizing in a statement before Zagel announced the identical sentence imposed five years earlier.

"I wish I could turn back the clock and make different choices," Blagojevich said. "These have been hard years."

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