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Judge recommends prison drug rehab for Rod Blagojevich

FILE - In this Dec. 7 2011 phoFormer Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich looks back crowd as he returns home with

FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2011 photo, Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich looks back at the crowd as he returns home with his wife Patti in Chicago after he was sentenced by Judge James Zagel to 14 years in prison for his convictions on 18 corruption counts, including trying to to auction off President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Blagojevich's attorneys have asked a judge to put him in a drug rehab program when he enters prison next year, but won't say whether it's a legal maneuver or if he has an addiction. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: January 16, 2012 10:31AM

The same federal judge who sentenced Rod Blagojevich to one of the longest corruption sentences in Illinois history has recommended a prison rehab program for the ex-governor that could help shave time off his staggering 14-year sentence.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel, referencing a report from the U.S. Probation Department, on Tuesday recommended that Blagojevich be placed in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons Residential Drug Abuse Program, said the former governor’s lawyer, Shelly Sorosky.

But Sorosky said he didn’t know what type of drug or alcohol use Blagojevich would be treated for if the 55-year-old is found qualified for the program.

Known as “RDAP,” the program aims to help inmates with substance abuse issues — including drugs or alcohol. Zagel’s recommendation is only that — it would be up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to determine if Blagojevich qualifies.

“Probation said he may be a ripe candidate for it and Judge Zagel said [to the bureau of prisons] ‘consider him for it,’ ” Sorosky said.

A prisons spokesman told the Sun-Times last week there typically has to be a documented history of abuse for an inmate to qualify.

Sorosky said there is documentation.

The judge’s recommendation Tuesday, he said, stemmed from a confidential report from the probation department to the judge.

The report came after a summer interview between Blagojevich and a probation officer, Sorosky said. Sorosky said he did not know the nature of what Blagojevich told the probation officer about substance abuse at the time — a few weeks after his June conviction — but it caused a recommendation to the judge.

If Blagojevich qualifies for the program, it could help him take one year off his sentence, plus be freed to a halfway house six months earlier. That would be on top of time off for good behavior. Right now, Blagojevich would have to serve about 12 of the 14 years when factoring in only good behavior.

Zagel also agreed Tuesday to recommend Blagojevich for the low-security Englewood prison in Littleton, Colo., near Denver. That prison offers the substance abuse program. Not all of federal prisons do.

Last week, Scott Fawell, who served as chief of staff to former Gov. George Ryan, told the Sun-Times he went through a nine-month substance abuse program in prison after his own corruption conviction, then got six months off in a halfway house plus one year of credit for doing the program.

“I didn’t want to do it at first. I said: ‘I’m going to save a little shred of dignity,’ ” he said. “But it’s the only game in town. It’s the only way you can get time off,” in the federal system, Fawell said last week.
Contributing: Kim Janssen

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