Don't send in the clowns. Blago sentence appeal decision "dumbfounding"

Despite the hopeful tone I took yesterday when we learned that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich might be released from prison early, my dreams were dashed yet again by a federal judge. After hearing tearful appeals from family members and a lengthy argument from defense attorneys, the judge concluded that not only would Blago not be released immediately, but that he won’t even be getting a shortened sentence of any sort. He’s going to do the full stretch which was originally imposed. (Chicago Tribune)

Moments after learning his bid to reduce his 14-year sentence had failed, Rod Blagojevich stood alone in a stark prison room in Colorado on Tuesday while his family sobbed in a Chicago courtroom a thousand miles away.

Dressed in blue prison garb and with his famously jet-black hair now grayish-white, the former governor, appearing on a flickering closed-circuit television screen, shook his head and collapsed in his seat. He could hear his wife, Patti, and young daughters crying in the courtroom gallery, but he couldn’t see them because the camera was still pointed at the judge’s bench.

Finally, after the courtroom cleared of spectators, the camera was swiveled so the family could talk briefly face-to-face. A haggard-looking Blagojevich managed a smile and thanked his daughters for their impassioned pleas for mercy to U.S. District Judge James Zagel.

It was a heartrending scene to be sure, and Blago’s wife Patti described her own reaction as being “dumbfounded and flabbergasted.” She went on to describe the judge’s ruling as cruel, heartless and unfair. I’m sure this is very hard on the family, but is Rod really having a hard time in the penitentiary?

It turns out that Blago is apparently making a lot of friends behind bars. One reason may be that he’s entertaining his fellow jailbirds by joining a band called the Jailhouse Rockers. It’s obviously had an effect because more than 100 other prisoners in the same facility voiced their support for his early release.

Prosecutors want Zagel to impose the same 14-year term, saying Blagojevich doesn’t deserve leniency. The defense wants the sentence slashed to just five years, potentially freeing Blagojevich within months.

Defense lawyers say Blagojevich has been a model prisoner, citing more than 100 letters of support from fellow inmates. They noted the Elvis Presley fan even formed a prison band called “The Jailhouse Rockers.”

Was this a case of the inmates wishing the best for Blago or simply wanting to get him out of the exercise yard? It must be a strange social dynamic in there. Rod is famous for being “good with people” and knowing how to win friends. How else does one get that far ahead in politics so quickly? But it’s not as if he can do much for the other prisoners even if he gets out. Who knows? Perhaps he’s really found his niche and is forming real bonds with the various other outlaws in there.

Ah well, Blago… we still miss you in the blogosphere and we’ll be here waiting when you get out.