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CRIME & PUNISHMENT, ILLINOIS, THE ISSUES, THE STATE OF STATES

Former Governor Blagojevich Faces Sentencing Hearing

via Monica Davey, The New York Times

For Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, it may be the final campaign.

On Tuesday, he is expected to testify at a hearing that will decide his sentence for 18 felony corruption convictions, including trying to sell or trade for his own benefit the United States Senate seat that President Obama left behind when he moved to the White House.

Mr. Blagojevich’s crimes carry maximum sentences that could stretch into hundreds of years behind bars, but federal prosecutors say he deserves 15 to 20 years in prison. Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyers will seek far less, and have, at points, suggested that probation is appropriate.

More likely, Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat who won two terms as governor before being impeached and removed from office, will become the fourth Illinois governor in recent memory to go to prison — a mortifying statistic, even in a state long known for its political shenanigans. In the three years since Mr. Blagojevich’s arrest, state leaders approved a series of reforms to campaign finance rules and transparency about state business, though critics complain that none of them go far enough to end the pattern.

If Mr. Blagojevich, who has been living in his Chicago home since after his arrest three years ago, is soon incarcerated, his term will overlap with that of his immediate predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, who is serving 6 1/2 years at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., also for corruption.

Mr. Ryan, a Republican, was already engulfed in scandal when Mr. Blagojevich first ran for governor, portraying himself as a voice for reform amid so much unpleasantness. “On the heels of one corrupt governor and after running on a campaign to end ‘pay-to-play,’ Blagojevich took office and immediately began plotting with others to use the office of the governor for his personal gain through fraud, bribery and extortion,” prosecutors wrote in legal filings for James B. Zagel, a federal judge, who is expected to announce a sentence on Wednesday.

Mr. Blagojevich, a lawyer, was a career politician, having served as a legislator in Washington and in Springfield. His father-in-law, Richard Mell, is a longtime Chicago alderman whose powerful political operation on the city’s Northwest Side had given Mr. Blagojevich his start.

With his trademark sweep of unmoving black hair, he was outgoing and always chatty with voters, but bickered with state lawmakers, who saw him as stubborn, aloof and obsessed with making headlines. Local leaders were quick to dismiss him as a single bad apple — not an example of Illinois politicians — when he was arrested.

In political circles here, the length of Mr. Blagojevich’s sentence has become a matter of much speculation — and debate over one politician’s failings versus another’s. Will he get more time than Mr. Ryan? Will he get more than Antoin Rezko, a former top fund-raiser for Mr. Blagojevich, who was sentenced last month to 10 1/2 years in prison for fraud and bribery?

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