Wednesday, June 29, 2011

300 years for Milorod? How about 3!

I was pleased to see the various news reports this week that speculated about how much time in prison former Gov. Rod Blagojevich could get – because they all mentioned the fact that while he theoretically could get prison terms totaling 300 years, something along the line of a decade is more realistic.

With the public mindset that exists toward Blagojevich, we literally would have had people expecting his eventual sentencing to result in a prison term of so many years that it would amount to natural life.


Anybody who seriously thinks that Blagojevich is going to be locked away in a federal correctional center for the bulk of the remainder of his life is being ridiculous.

If anything, we ought to think about locking such people up in a mental institution, on the grounds that they’re going loony in the head and aren’t thinking rational enough to be in society. They may be more of a threat to us than Blagojevich is.

Because this issue is the one we ought now to be focusing on, now that Blagojevich has been found guilty by a jury of his “peers” on 17 of 20 charges he faced during his latest trial in U.S. District Court.

THERE WILL BE much speculation about what is an appropriate punishment for the one-time governor whose ego ran amok and caused him to engage in so much political trash talk that it (in the minds of federal prosecutors who convinced the jury) crossed over into criminal behavior.

Many of those people who are most eager to have Blagojevich go away to prison for some time really have politically partisan objections to him. It’s personal. The fact that criminal procedures get involved in this affair is just a lucky break for them.

If this is reading like I think some people over-react when it comes to their thoughts about Blagojevich, you’d be correct.

I happen to be of the belief that these charges against Blagojevich are questionable because they do push to the limit the idea of criminalizing political rhetoric. If talk really is “cheap,” I can’t help but think that some sort of action is necessary for something criminal to have happened. And that was something we never got in either of the Blagojevich trials.

INSOFAR AS THE fact that Blagojevich’s talk and thoughts and ego were tacky and sleazy and vile at times, you’d be correct. But I honestly believe that not every bit of bad behavior automatically translates into a criminal charge and time in prison.

If it did, we’d have 99.99999 percent of the population doing a stint in prison at some time in their lives, and the only reason the other 0.00001 percent didn’t do time was because prosecutors were too overburdened chasing down everybody else.

But I also accept the fact that the people who had the task to decide whether Blagojevich crossed the line between egomania and criminality were those 11 women and 1 man on the jury that sat through his case, then spent part of three weeks reviewing the evidence – including all those hours of conversations secretly taped by the FBI.

They heard the evidence and paid closer attention to it than I did during the past couple of months.

SO IF THEY believe that Blagojevich’s behavior is criminal, I will accept that as fact. At least until/unless an appeals court panel rules on the inevitable appeal that will be filed on the former governor’s behalf.

Until that point, Blagojevich is going to have to focus his attention on how long a prison term he will receive – and how he will cope with serving that time; although I suspect in his deepest fantasies, he’s hoping to become the male equivalent of Miriam Santos.

Remember how the former Chicago city treasurer got her corruption conviction overturned after serving a few months in prison, then managed to get prosecutors agree to her being sentenced to time served when she pleaded guilty instead of going to a retrial?

I’m sure that thought would upset those people who want to think of Blagojevich doing the kind of time usually reserved for people who kill other human beings.

BUT THAT WAS always a part of what bugged me about the Blagojevich case – the fact that the charges with multiple counts were piled on so thick so that they’d create that image of a 300-year prison term. That’s just absurd.

Even hearing the legal pundits speculating that 10 or so years in prison is more realistic strikes me as being a bit long. Because somehow, the idea of about three years in prison seems to be proper.

I don’t mean a 3-year sentence. I mean a sentence that, once what little “good time” he qualifies for is applied, comes to about 36 months in a federal correctional center – quite possibly receiving an “Oxford education” at the prison near Oxford, Wis.

That just seems so realistic. Anything more seems like overkill. And giving in to the people who despise Blagojevich for personal reasons seems more offensive than anything Blagojevich was found guilty of doing.

ON ANOTHER POINT, there have been those who have speculated that Blagojevich could be sent to the minimum-security work camp that is part of the maximum-security prison at Terre Haute, Ind. – joining former Gov. George Ryan and one-time Tenth Ward Alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak.

But it was my understanding that both of those men were sent to that prison because of their advancing age (in their 70s). Blagojevich is 54, and in much better health than either of those retired politicos.

I doubt we’ll get that "unholy" Chicago political trio anytime soon.


No comments: