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Prosecutors say Blagojevich lawyers misread ruling

Posted Friday, Jul. 18, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Prosecutors responded Friday to a new argument in Rod Blagojevich's appeal, saying the imprisoned ex-governor's lawyers misrepresented a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a separate campaign-finance case.

The Illinois Democrat is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence for corruption — including for seeking to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat for campaign contributions or a job.

In a filing earlier this week, his lawyers said a high court ruling in McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission in April bolstered their view that Blagojevich was engaged in legal, run-of-the-mill political horse trading, not corruption.

The McCutcheon ruling, they argued, found that soliciting contributions crosses the line into corruption only when a politician makes a clear, explicit promise to take official action in return for a donation.

In that context, defense attorneys said the trial judge was wrong to set a lower standard for jurors by telling them, to convict, they only needed to find that Blagojevich sought donations "knowing or believing" it would be given for some official act.

But in their Friday response, filed with the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, government attorneys said Blagojevich's legal team hadn't correctly characterized the Supreme Court's findings in McCutcheon.

"The decision provides no support for Blagojevich's argument on appeal," the two-page filing says. "Nothing in the (McCutcheon) decision suggests that an exchange of contributions for specific official acts is quid pro quo corruption only if the arrangement is stated 'explicitly' or 'expressly.'"

The Chicago-based appellate court has been considering Blagojevich's appeal for more than six months. It's unclear when it might issue a decision.

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