Attorneys for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) filed an appeal challenging his 14-year jail sentence on corruption charges, accusing the federal judge of never giving their client a fair shake in his original trial, WGN-TV reported on Tuesday.
In the appeal (PDF), filed late Monday night, Blagojevich’s attorneys call U.S. District Judge James Zagel as a “rubber stamp” for prosecutors, and seeks a new trial, as well as a reduction of his sentence.
The appeal accused Zagel of seating one juror, referred to as “Juror 174,” despite the objections of Blagojevich’s lawyers.
“Juror 174 had formed an opinion as to the ultimate issue to be tried – the defendant’s guilt,” the appeal said. “He should have been struck for cause. The court’s error allowed a biased juror to deliberate Blagojevich’s fate.”
Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison in December 2011 for trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by the election of President Barack Obama. Prosecutors were allowed to play a recording of him saying, “I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden,” in reference to the position, and discussing a deal to offer it to Valerie Jarrett in exchange for an ambassadorship.
The appeal contends that, rather than being a sign of corruption, the proposal was a “political horse trade” made with the public interest in mind.
“Blagojevich made no effort to conceal his plan but discussed it openly with his advisors and with the emissary sent by Obama to urge the selection of Jarrett for the Senate,” the appeal stated. “There was zero evidence that Blagojevich engaged in or intended any fraud or deception in his negotiations with Obama’s representatives.”
The former governor’s attorneys also accuse Zagel of refusing to allow Blagojevich to present a “good-faith defense” on his behalf.
Watch WGN’s report, aired Tuesday, below.