U.S. District Judge James Zagel issued two rulings in recent days that favored prosecutors in government corruption cases involving William Cellini and Rod Blagojevich.
|ZAGEL: No legal surprises?|
Yet somehow, I don’t think either politically high-powered defendant is all that surprised, or upset, at the unfavorable rulings to their motions.
BOTH MEN WERE trying to get Zagel to rule on motions that would have benefitted them – and “da judge” refused.
In the case of Cellini, the fundraiser who tells politicians what they should do with their positions of authority, his attorneys wanted a ruling that would have struck down his “guilty” verdicts on the grounds that one of the jurors was tainted.
The “taint” coming from the fact that the juror didn’t admit upfront that she had a prior criminal record.
Whereas Blagojevich was once again trying to get excepts from the tape recordings made by the G-man wiretaps – ones that prosecutors didn’t use in their trial against the former governor but that he claims would put him in a favorable light.
ZAGEL WASN’T “BUYING it” in either case.
For Cellini, he ruled that defense attorneys are going to have to prove that the so-called tainted juror had some bias against their client. The fact that not all information came out prior to trial isn’t enough to warrant tossing out a criminal verdict.
For Blagojevich, Zagel said that defense attorneys should have tried to bring this issue up a long time ago – rather than thinking it could be used to ambush a sentencing hearing. One could argue that Blagojevich HAS been trying to get these tapes in the public realm for so long, and that Zagel has been the one who has stood in the way.
So now, we have sentencing hearings coming up – ones in which both men are looking at the possibility of a decade or more of prison time as their punishment for their improper acts that cheated the public out of the service they should have a right to expect from their government officials.
WHICH IS A statement that lays it on a little thick. But then again, that is the way many prosecutors (particularly at the federal level) tend to think. We may well get some variation of that line when it comes time to sentence the two men.
I don’t believe either man expected Zagel to rule in their favor. In fact, I think it would have screwed up their long-term strategy if the judge HAD given them what they were asking for.
What I suspect all of this was about was getting the judge to rule negatively, so that the attorneys can argue on appeal that THIS is the critical error made by Zagel – and one that would warrant having their convictions tossed out and new trials being held.
Albeit under conditions where prosecutors were restrained in ways that they were not during their most recent trials.
THE LEGAL ARGUMENTS made for Cellini against the juror and for Blagojevich in favor of the tapes are more intended for that eventual appeals court panel that will hear these cases sometime during the next couple of years.
I’m sure the attorneys for both men are envisioning the day when a legal panel will issue a ruling (perhaps 2-1) that is more to their liking, and one that would allow both of these men to go through the rest of their lives contending that they were the “victims” of an overbearing prosecution in these legal matters.
Then again, it’s always possible that the 2-1 vote will go against them, with the “1” being the lone judge who thinks their argument has any credibility.
That is, after all, what became of the appeals filed on behalf of former Gov. George Ryan. At every level of the appeals process, there were judges who thought there was merit to the arguments he made in his own defense.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR HIM, Ryan could never get a majority – which is why he looks at the possibility of another 20 months at the work camp located near the maximum-security Terre Haute Correctional Center in Indiana.
And the real issue at stake these days with regards to either of these government corruption cases is whether the arguments being made now to a judge who most likely just wants to put an end to these legal proceedings will be viewed more favorably by fresh ears in the future?