In a hearing that starts Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Zagel must answer several key, sometimes nuanced questions as he calculates a fitting sentence for ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on 18 counts of corruption. Most legal experts say Blagojevich is likely to get about 10 years, but Zagel has enormous discretion to give him much more or much less.
Among the questions:
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-- Has Blagojevich accepted responsibility or expressed remorse? To date, he has not. He could in a statement at sentencing, but signs are he may keep asserting his innocence by claiming aides led him astray -- declarations judges frown upon at the sentencing stage.
-- What harm did Blagojevich's crimes cause? The defense says Blagojevich didn't make a single cent off his schemes, some of which were attempts to extort money that failed. But Zagel could conclude his actions badly undermined public confidence in government.
-- Did Blagojevich lie when he testified at his retrial? Federal judges can boost a sentence by years if a defendant testified and was subsequently convicted. In light of the jury's guilty verdicts, prosecutors have urged Zagel to view Blagojevich's testimony as perjury.
-- Did he lead the conspiracies? The top dog in conspiracies gets more time and prosecutors say Blagojevich was just that. Zagel must decide if he buys the defense argument that just because Blagojevich was a boss didn't mean he took the lead role in the schemes.
-- Other crimes? It may come as a surprise to some that federal judges can consider actions not directly related to crimes for which a felon was convicted. Prosecutors want Zagel to factor in that Blagojevich started hatching schemes from the day he took office.
-- Has he otherwise been beneficial to society? Judges can temper a sentence by considering good deeds. The defense cites Blagojevich's legislative accomplishments, including making health insurance widely available to Illinois children.
-- Does the crime involve an elected official? Those, like Blagojevich, who commit crimes in their official capacity, are deemed to have violated the public trust. Judges consider that a major aggravating factor.