- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) — A full appellate court in Chicago will not rehear the appeal of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption convictions.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals posted a notice Wednesday indicating there would be no rehearing for the imprisoned Democrat. A three-sentence order issued by the court said that no judges on the court asked for a rehearing.

Blagojevich had hoped the full court might overturn more of his 18 convictions than the five counts that a three-judge panel tossed in July.

The 58-year-old is serving a 14-year prison sentence in a Colorado prison for multiple corruption convictions. Those included his attempt to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat.

A legal observer said the court’s decision isn’t a surprise. For a case to be reheard, a majority of the nine active judges must vote in favor of the request.

“The 7th Circuit very rarely grants rehearings to anyone,” said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago. “And with Blagojevich, I think many judges just don’t like the guy. … And I don’t think other judges on the court wanted to challenge the three judges’ original finding.”

The remaining option for Blagojevich is to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal.

“It’s their last shot and they have to take it,” Turner said.

Messages left for several Blagojevich attorneys seeking comment weren’t immediately returned.

In their August request for a rehearing, Blagojevich’s lawyers argued that there were uniquely important legal issues at play that warranted the entire bench’s attention, including just where the line lies between legal and illegal political horse-trading.

In its July 21 ruling, the three-judge panel threw out convictions linked to Blagojevich’s attempt to land a post in Obama’s Cabinet in exchange for appointing an Obama adviser to the president’s old U.S. Senate seat.

The panel also ordered that Blagojevich be resentenced. But the ruling said the original 14-year sentence might be considered fair even after subtracting the five overturned counts.

The rejection of the rehearing means the resentencing hearing for Blagojevich should be scheduled in coming weeks, Turner said. His attorneys also could ask that his resentencing be held off until the U.S. Supreme Court decided the issue. But the high court agrees to hear only a relatively small number of cases each year and there is no guarantee it will agree to hear Blagojevich‘s.

A central focus of the court’s July opinion was precisely the question of when an elected official crosses the line from legal into illegal political wheeling and dealing.

The three judges found Blagojevich crossed that line when he sought money - including campaign cash - for naming someone to Obama’s old Senate seat. But they said he didn’t cross it by asking for a Cabinet seat for himself. Secretly trading favors based on politicians’ executive powers, the panel concluded, is a legitimate way to get things done.

After the August request for a rehearing, Blagojevich released his first public statement since reporting to prison three years ago. In it, the two-term governor vowed to “fight on.”

“What is at stake is nothing less than the rule of law,” he said.


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