This is a horrible day for Rod Blagojevich and his family. And one that could have been avoided if he made different decisions along the way.
Obviously, not holding back legislation until after he received campaign contributions or trying to get something in return for making a Senate appointment go at the top of the list.
But, in terms of legal maneuvering once he was charged, he did himself a disservice. Many times over.
First of all, he did not listen to his attorneys. Blagojevich hired very qualified criminal defense attorneys in Cook County: Ed Genson, Sam Adam, Sam Adam, Jr. and Sheldon Sorofsky. However, Mr. Blagojevich did not listen to Ed Genson when Genson advised him to keep quiet and not speak to the media. I don’t know for a fact, but my guess is that the remaining attorneys told Rod to keep quiet too, but they were willing to go with the flow and ride the media train.
Genson withdrew from the case, and that was problem number two. Once Genson left the case, Blagojevich should have considered switching legal teams and hiring former federal prosecutors with experience in this type of case. And I know that Sam Adam Jr. did a great job to get one juror to vote “not guilty” causing the first hung jury.
But Blagojevich’s attorneys were not in their element in Federal court, and thats not a good thing. I suspect that they were also understaffed and unable to deal with the voluminous discovery with hundreds of hours of eavesdropped phone conversations. Maybe Blagojevich couldn’t afford one of those guys and their large blue chip law firm support staffs. But that is the type of staff that you need to deal with this type of case. And unlike other former government types, Blagojevich probably burned a lot of bridges so he didn’t get the sort of generous reduced rate help that his predecessor George Ryan received from Jim Thompson and Dan Webb.
Most importantly, Blagojevich should have entered into plea negotiations.
At the beginning of the process, he knew the following: that the evidence against him was strong, that the Feds have a 96% conviction rate, and that he was facing fairly inflexible federal sentencing guidelines if convicted.
I know this is Monday morning quarterbacking, but imagine if he played it out this way instead of what he actually did:
Submitted his resignation as governor immediately, “to deal with my pending criminal investigation;”
Kept his mouth shut — no Regis, no Apprentice, no Don and Roma, etc.;
Had his attorneys negotiate a plea.
Even better would have been to negotiate a plea immediately with his potential resignation as a bargaining chip.
My guess is if he had entered plea negotiations, he could have reduced his exposure to a sentence in the range of 5 1/2 to 8 years.
Of course, it is not easy for anyone to agree to a multi-year prison sentence. Let alone for someone who has never faced a day in jail.
But now he will have to think about that for every extra day he spends in prison that he didn’t have to. Today, at sentencing, he admitted that he committed crimes. So he doesn’t even get the satisfaction of claiming he was “railroaded.” Was the media circus and trial worth all those extra wasted years and missing his daughters growing up? Maybe as much as an extra 8 years? I don’t think so.
What do you think?