Rod Blagojevich (D)
CHICAGO (Legal Newsline)-Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's federal corruption trial will begin as planned on June 3, a federal appeals court has decided, upholding a trial court ruling.
The ousted governor's legal team had requested a continuance until November in light of a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision that could change the way honest services fraud statutes are written. Of the 24 counts against Blagojevich, about half allege violations of the honest services statute.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals examined an earlier ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel in the Northern District of Illinois that rejected the defense's initial argument for a continuance. Zagel, at the time, said a postponement based on the pending Supreme Court decision amounts to a red herring.
The Chicago-based 7th Circuit said the defense's argument for a continuance based on the pending decision "might give us pause" had his charges been only been against the honest services statute.
The appeals court said defendants in the case, which include Blagojevich and bis brother Nashville businessman Robert Blagojevich, "cannot demonstrate that the challenged orders are effectively unreviewable at the end of the case."
Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to racketeering, conspiracy and other corruption charges. Federal prosecutors allege the former Democratic governor attempted trade President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat in exchange for political favors. He was arrested Dec. 9, 2008.
Federal prosecutors have opposed any delay in Blagojevich's trial. They say the former governor has had time to prepare for trial since his indictment last year.
Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois House of Representatives by a 114'1 vote. The state Senate voted 59-0 to remove him from office in January 2009. He is represented by veteran Chicago defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky of Kaplan & Sorosky.
Zagel was nominated to the federal court in 1987 by Republican President Ronald Reagan. He is a former Cook County prosecutor and director of the state Department of Revenue.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.