Federal appeals court vacates some convictions of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
A U.S. appeals court said on Tuesday it had vacated five out of 18 criminal convictions against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year sentence for attempted extortion from campaign contributors, wire fraud and other crimes.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed 13 counts, ordered a retrial on the other five counts and said Blagojevich, 58, was not entitled to be released from federal prison during the new trial because his sentence is already below the recommended length of time for the convictions that were upheld.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, was arrested in December 2008 when he was still governor. He was impeached by the Illinois General Assembly in early 2009, becoming the state’s first governor to be removed from office. He went through two jury trials, and in March 2012 he began serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison.
At the heart of the convictions were Blagojevich’s attempts in 2008 to make money out of his power to appoint a replacement for Barack Obama, who was leaving his seat in the U.S. Senate representing Illinois after winning the presidential election.
In an appeal filed in 2013, Blagojevich’s lawyers argued the evidence was insufficient to convict him on any account. In a ruling written by Judge Frank Easterbrook, a three-judge appeals court panel called that argument “frivolous,” saying the evidence was overwhelming.
But the court vacated some convictions because the judges found a problem in the instructions to the jury.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mohammad Zarghamr)