Lawyers for Rod Blagojevich asked a federal judge to impose “a compassionate and proportionate sentence” on the former governor, in sharp contrast to the 15- to 20-year prison sentence sought by prosecutors earlier in the day.

“…Despite a strong and seemingly defiant exterior, no one is more acutely aware of the tragedy that has become of his life’s work and aspirations as is Mr. Blagojevich himself,” the defense said in its 69-page filing Wednesday evening.

Blagojevich’s lawyers continued to maintain his innocence despite the verdicts of two separate juries and argued that Blagojevich shouldn’t be hit with a lengthy prison sentence because the prosecution and publicity has already resulted in his “personal ruination, public scorn and criminal conviction.”

Without elaborating, the filing said the three years since Blagojevich’s arrest have “taken a toll” on his mental and physical health and resulted in “anxiety, stress and uncertainty” for his two daughters.

The lawyers referred to Blagojevich’s media offensive, saying it was a response “for good or for bad” to press coverage, and said that his and wife Patti’s reality show appearances weren’t intended to garner public support but rather to make money to support their daughters.

”His family is close to bankruptcy,” the defense wrote. “He has suffered every kind of public ridicule and humiliation imaginable – to the point that foreign tourists can often be found posing for photos on the outside staircase to his family home.”

But in their 21-page filing, prosecutors say Blagojevich merits much harsher punishment because he "repeatedly committed serious criminal acts that have done enormous damage to public confidence in Illinois government. He has refused to accept any responsibility for his criminal conduct and, rather, has repeatedly obstructed justice and taken action to further erode respect for the law.

“While the government is not unsympathetic to the plight that Blagojevich, like many criminals, has inflicted upon his family through his criminal acts, Blagojevich has nobody to blame but himself for the criminal conduct in which he engaged.”

The sentencing memo highlights some of Blagojevich’s misdeeds, including his attempt to trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama for $1.5 million in campaign cash, his shakedown of a CEO of a children’s hospital for $25,000 and his stalling of a bill to help the state horse industry in an effort to earn another $100,000 in campaign contributions.

“Over the course of a relatively brief period of time, during his machinations surrounding the appointment of a United States Senator, and the shakedowns of hospital and racetrack executives, the defendant revealed his corrupt, criminal character,” prosecutors said. “But, as the evidence and Blagojevich’s conduct at his trials established, these were not isolated incidents. They were part and parcel of an approach to public office that defendant adopted from the moment he became governor in 2002.”

Prosecutors noted that Blagojevich was elected governor in 2002 on a platform to end “pay-to-play” politics and decried corruption following the conviction in 2006 of his predecessor, Gov. George Ryan.

The government quoted Blagojevich as saying at the time “that  no one is above the law” and “that government is supposed to exist for the good of the people, not the other way around, and certainly not for the personal enrichment of those who hold public office.”

Ryan is serving a 6 ½-year term in federal prison in Terre Haute.

A key part of the government argument for such a stiff prison sentence was to deter current and future public officials “from engaging in Blagojevich-like criminal activity.” The government cited other lengthy sentences meted out around the country against public officials in the last couple of years.

Prosecutors belittled the defense request for probation for Blagojevich, saying it shows his “continued failure to acknowledge his own criminal conduct.”

asweeney@tribune.com