Federal prosecutors argue Rod Blagojevich could face 30 years to life in prison, sources say -- a sentencing range that will be bitterly disputed by the former governor's defense lawyers.
Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky called the government's numbers "harsh and cruel," Wednesday but said he wouldn't discuss them. The prosecution's calculation was submitted in private. Sorosky said the defense would put forth its own version that is a far cry from the government's.
"We are preparing a submission to Judge Zagel, which is far, far, far under those draconian and harsh and cruel numbers," Sorosky said. "We are making our own guideline calculation which is fair and based on facts and the evidence at trial."
Blagojevich, 54, who is now scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 6, was convicted in June on 17 of 20 counts of corruption, including charges that he schemed to sell President Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich was also convicted last year of one count of making false statements to the FBI.
The range put forth by prosecutors is not set in stone, and their calculations sometimes differ from the amount of time they actually recommend that a judge give a defendant.
Judges rely heavily on recommendations put together by the U.S. Probation Department. And defense lawyers will also submit their version of events. The former governor's lawyers are expected to argue that Blagojevich shouldn't get much prison time, in part because he didn't take money in the crimes for which he was convicted.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel will have wide discretion over the former governor's prison term, as sentencing guidelines for federal judges are advisory. Judges typically listen to all sides and then decide, based on a number of factors that make up the sentencing range.
Before former Gov. George Ryan was sentenced for corruption in 2006, the U.S. Probation Office recommended a range of eight to ten years in prison. Prosecutors did not publicly disclose a sentencing range, but they argued Ryan should not receive less than ten years in prison. He wound up getting 6 ½ years.
Prosecutors had calculated the range for former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge at 24 to 40 years but they did not make a specific recommendation beyond asking for "substantial time." Burge ended up getting 4 ½ years.
"While that may be the government's calculation, it's good to keep in mind that Judge Zagel has ultimate discretion," said Patrick Collins, a former prosecutor in the Ryan case. "I would be shocked if he would consider a sentence anywhere near that."
In the prosecution's calculations, the government says Blagojevich faces more time because he took the witness stand and allegedly obstructed justice, sources said. As governor, he was also leader of an enterprise, they will argue.
The U.S. Attorney's office had no comment.
Though Blagojevich's sentencing is set to begin Oct. 6, Sorosky has previously questioned whether it would begin on time since the same judge is set to begin the corruption trial of Springfield power broker William Cellini three days earlier.
Sentencing filings in the case are expected Sept. 30.