CHICAGO (AP) — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has chosen not to appear in person at his resentencing next month in Chicago and will instead make his first appearance in a public forum in four years via video from a Colorado prison, his attorney told a federal judge Wednesday.
The 59-year-old Democrat preferred to return to his hometown but reluctantly agreed with officials that the logistics of the 1,000-mile journey would be complicated, attorney Leonard Goodman told Judge James Zagel at a status hearing.
His warden refused to grant Blagojevich a furlough enabling him to travel to Chicago on his own, Goodman said. So, transferring the one-time contestant on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" could have taken two weeks, requiring he go through a transfer center in Oklahoma and then board a government-run prisoner plane. Had Blagojevich invoked his right to attend the Aug. 9 hearing, "he would have come on Con Air," Goodman joked after the hearing.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons didn't have an immediate comment.
Famously fastidious about his black hair as governor, Blagojevich has granted no interviews in prison, so the resentencing will be the first chance to see how his appearance has changed behind bars. His barber said in 2012 that Blagojevich's hair was dyed and that, since dyes are banned in prison, it would quickly turn all white.
An appeals court last year ordered Blagojevich to be resentenced after tossing five of the 18 corruption convictions that included attempting to exchange an appointment to President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash.
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."
Blagojevich expected to make a statement directly to Zagel via the live video link, Goodman said. But an appeal for leniency could be a tough sell: At the original 2011 sentencing, Zagel repeatedly rebuked Blagojevich before imposing a longer sentence than many expected.
"When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily or quickly repaired," he told Blagojevich. "You did that damage."