Supreme Court rejects ex-Illinois governor's latest appeal

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's latest bid to shorten his 14-year prison sentence for corruption offenses including soliciting bribes for appointment to the Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated after being elected president in 2008.

The justices left in place a lower court ruling that rejected Blagojevich's arguments that he deserved leniency because he has been a "model prisoner" in the years he has already spent in federal prison and because some counts in his original 2011 conviction had been thrown out.

Blagojevich, 61, was convicted on charges including wire fraud, extortion and soliciting bribes while governor. He served from January 2003 to January 2009, when the Illinois Senate removed him from office. Blagojevich began serving his sentence in 2012.

Prosecutors said Blagojevich, a Democrat and former contestant on President Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" reality TV show, solicited campaign contributions in exchange for raising pediatric healthcare reimbursement rates and legislation supporting his state's horse racing industry. Blagojevich also tried to sell or trade the Senate seat that Obama vacated after winning the 2008 U.S. presidential election, prosecutors said.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015 voided five of Blagojevich's 18 convictions and ordered a resentencing, but U.S. District Judge James Zagel in Chicago reimposed the 14-year term.

In its later 2017 decision, the 7th Circuit ruled that Zagel did not abuse his discretion in refusing the reduce the sentence.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Will Dunham)

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