CHICAGO — Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys admitted Tuesday for the first time that the former Illinois governor is guilty of corruption, saying at his sentencing hearing that he accepts the verdicts against him but the prison term requested by prosecutors is too harsh.

Those comments are in stark contrast to Blagojevich’s public statements, in which he adamantly maintained his innocence through two trials since his arrest three years ago.

Attorney Sheldon Sorosky told Judge James Zagel that it was illegal for Blagojevich to ask for a job for himself in exchange for his naming of a replacement for President Obama in the U.S. Senate.

“There’s no doubt this is a crime to do this in relation to the Senate seat, we accept that,” Sorosky said. “I am just saying that does not call for a 15- to 20-year jail” term.

Sorosky made the same argument when he discussed the other crimes of which Blagojevich was convicted – shaking down a racetrack executive and a hospital executive, as well as lying to the FBI.

But he said none of Blagojevich’s actions merit the sentence recommended by prosecutors.

Blagojevich  was expected to address Zagel later in the two-day hearing. Legal experts have said he needs to display some remorse.

Zagel, who has said he’ll wait until today to pronounce a sentence, said earlier that Blagoje-vich was clearly the ringleader of the schemes for which he was convicted, and lied about his actions on the witness stand.

Zagel made it clear that he did not believe defense attorneys’ suggestion that Blagojevich was duped by aides and advisers.

“There is no question from his tone of voice that he was demanding,” Zagel said of Blagojevich’s comments on phone conversations secretly recorded by the FBI. “His role as leader is clearly shown by his actions.”