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Blagojevich's Lawyers Back In Court To Seek Lesser Sentence

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Attorneys for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich were back in court Tuesday, trying again to get his 14-year prison sentence reduced.

Blagojevich's defense team appeared before a panel of judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking them to release the disgraced governor early, or at least grant him a third trial.

Attorney Len Goodman said circumstances have changed since Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2011.

"There is new facts, there is new law from the Supreme Court that I think warrants the court to take another look at this case, and certainly the sentence," he said.

Blagojevich's wife, Patti, stood with her husband's three attorneys during the half-hour hearing Tuesday before the same three-judge panel that heard his previous appeal.

"My husband's an eternal optimist. He's always hoping that this is going to come out the way it needs to come out, and so his hopes are high and he continues to trust in the system that so far has let us down," she said.

The former governor's lawyers argued the trial judge erred last year when he resentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison, after the appeals court had thrown out five of the counts against him.

Blagojevich's lawyers also said their client's good deeds in prison were never truly considered at his resentencing hearing.

Goodman said a best-case scenario would be a new trial for the former governor. He said the jury in Blagojevich's second trial was given faulty instructions.

"The jury was told to reject his defense based on conduct that now everyone agrees was lawful, which was his attempt to make a political deal to be on Barack Obama's cabinet." "The jury was told that if he did that, it must reject his defense as to every single count. This was something that was overlooked by the court last time. It never addressed it. We're hoping this time it will address it, and if it does address it, it has to reverse. He has to get a new trial."

The jury at Blagovevich's second trial convicted him on 17 counts, including allegations that he tried to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by then-President Barack Obama. Five of those convictions were later thrown out by the 7th Circuit.

The chances Blagojevich could get a reduced sentence seem slim. Although the appeals court overturned five of Blagojevich's convictions in 2015, the judges noted his 14-year sentence was still an appropriate punishment.

"It is not possible to call 168 months unlawfully high for Blagojevich's crimes," the appeals court's ruling stated.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to take up Blagojevich's case.

Blagojevich also requested a pardon or a commuted sentence from former President Barack Obama, but he didn't get the clemency he sought.

President Donald Trump could still grant Blagojevich clemency, and the two worked together once when the former governor appeared on Trump's television show "Celebrity Apprentice," but the president has not indicated whether he might pardon Blagojevich.

Patti Blagojevich said she has "no idea" if Trump will help her husband's attempts to get out of prison.

"Even though there was lots of to-do about our petition for commutation, a thousand times my family would prefer that we win in the appellate court than get some kind of pardon," she said.

Blagojevich is not scheduled to be released from prison until 2024.

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