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Friday, December 9, 2016

By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO (Reuters) — A federal appeals court denied on Wednesday a petition by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for a rehearing of the court’s prior ruling that upheld most of his convictions and ordered him to remain in prison while some were retried.

Blagojevich will now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, his lawyer and his wife, Patti, said in a joint statement.

Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year sentence for attempted extortion from campaign contributors, wire fraud and other crimes, had asked for a rehearing in front of the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On July 21, a three-judge panel of the court vacated five of his 18 criminal convictions. The full court has 11 active judges.

The court denied the petition in a three-sentence order that said all of the judges on the three-judge panel had voted to deny a rehearing.

“We believe the decision is flawed and puts every public official, who must raise campaign funds to stay in office and to be effective, at the mercy of an ambitious or politically-motivated federal prosecutor,” Blagojevich attorney Leonard Goodman said in the statement. “Now we will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Blagojevich, a Democrat, was arrested in December 2008 when he was still governor. He was impeached by the state’s General Assembly in early 2009, becoming the first Illinois governor to be removed from office. He began serving his federal prison sentence in 2012.

In the July ruling, the 7th Circuit Court said there was overwhelming evidence against Blagojevich, who attempted in 2008 to make money from his power to appoint a replacement for Barack Obama, who was leaving his seat in the U.S. Senate after winning the presidential election.

The court did ask for a retrial on five counts, however, after determining there was a problem with instructions to the jury on those counts.

(Editing by Alan Crosby and Eric Beech)

Former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, with his wife Patti, makes a statement to reporters outside his Chicago home one day before reporting to federal prison in Colorado to serve a 14-year sentence for corruption, March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes