Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is beating a familiar drum as his sentencing on multiple corruption counts looms next month, asking in a court filing that he be permitted to play previously unreleased FBI wiretap tapes to the sentencing judge.
A defense filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago does not offer details about the excerpts or what Blagojevich is heard saying in them, but argues that they will buttress their arguments for a lenient sentence for the disgraced ex-governor.
"These calls are essential ... to show Mr. Blagojevich's state of mind and lack of ill intent," says the five-page court document, filed electronically on Thursday. "Mr. Blagojevich cannot adequately present his argument for a just sentence without" them.
The request comes less than two weeks before the 54-year-old's Dec. 6 sentencing on 18 corruption counts that include his attempt to exchange an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat for campaign cash or a top-scale job.
Some legal observers questioned the wisdom of Blagojevich's request.
Judges generally frown on felons who continue to maintain their innocence at sentencing rather than accepting at least some responsibility for their crimes, Chicago-based federal defense attorney Gal Pissetzky said Friday.
"At sentencing, you need to accept the jury verdict and then fight for your innocence later on appeal," he said. "If you continue to shove it in the judge's face by fighting your innocence at sentencing, it takes away from your goal of less time in prison."
A U.S. Attorney's spokesman Randall Samborn on Friday declined any comment.
While Blagojevich technically faces up to 305 years in prison, most legal experts have said Judge James Zagel will likely impose a sentence somewhere around 10 years. Much less would be seen as lenient -- and much more, as severe.
Select FBI wiretap recordings of foul-mouthed, often greedy-sounding Blagojevich were at the heart of the government evidence.
But Blagojevich's mantra before his two trials was for authorities "to play all the tapes," saying doing so would clear him. Zagel, however, ruled repeatedly that hundreds of hours of recordings weren't relevant.
Blagojevich's first trial ended deadlocked with jurors agreeing on just one of 24 counts -- that Blagojevich lied to the FBI. Jurors at his recent retrial convicted Blagojevich on 17 of 20 counts, including bribery and attempted extortion.