Prosecutors and defense attorneys met in open court with federal
Judge James Zagel for the first time since the jury convicted
Blagojevich two weeks ago of lying to federal authorities. What was
supposed to be a standard procedural matter took a quick twist, as
lead prosecutor Reid Schar asked to speak.
"The government went
back and considered the substantial disparity in the role (in the
brother's alleged criminal activity)," he said, "and we have decided
not to proceed against Robert Blagojevich ... in the interest of
The 19-month ordeal may be over for Robert, who served as
Blagojevich's chief fundraiser in 2008, but round two of the
ex-governor's corruption trial is just beginning. He must now
confront two looming realities that will make this case an uphill
His first concern is money, perhaps fitting for a defendant who
obsessed over campaign contributions and allegedly strong-armed
political figures for donations. Blagojevich spent the remaining $2
million in his campaign fund on his eight-lawyer defense team. The
ex-governor will not have that luxury this time around. Facing
hundreds of thousands in debt from his lavish lifestyle, he will
rely on taxpayer dollars to pay for two lawyers and a paralegal.
Zagel dismissed defense arguments for allowing additional
lawyers, saying his hands were tied. But the judge also took aim at
"the most lawyers" he'd ever seen in court.
"You talked about David versus Goliath in the media," he said to
the defense. "But from the looks of the courtroom, the number of
lawyers at the government's table and yours, you looked like
The task will be nearly impossible with only three
representatives, according to Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Sr.
"We had millions of documents to go over; we had 5,500 hours of
tapes to go over; we had 20 people working full time on this case,"
he said. "The idea that this is ... just an ordinary case is just
Zagel will allow attorneys to work on the case pro bono, and he
said he could permit a legal team financed by a benefactor, if the
defense disclosed the source of funds. Defense attorney Sheldon
Sorosky introduced both concepts to the judge, though he admitted he
had "no idea" who would be willing to do either.
Adam Sr. could be the first volunteer.
"I'm prepared to do anything our client wants us to do, including
working for free," he said.
Adam's public statements over the last week have flamed
speculation that he and his bombastic son Sam Adam Jr. may jump
ship. He looked to put such rumors to rest on Thursday.
"Nobody has withdrawn; nobody has gotten out of the case," he
Short of counsel, Blagojevich now finds himself short a
co-defendant with his brother gone. He will face 12 jurors alone,
after several insiders agreed to testify against him. Another,
fundraiser Chris Kelly, committed suicide last fall.
In dismissing charges against Robert, prosecutors have shifted
the entire weight of the case to the former governor's shoulders and
are hoping the jury will see him stumble.
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Robert and his wife, Julie, were the only witnesses called by the
defense during the seven-week trial. He was widely credited with
boosting the defense's case.
But Sorosky downplayed the impact of Robert's departure from the
"If his testimony was that dynamite, he woulda been found not
guilty," he said.
The defense still has the option to call on the elder Blagojevich
as a witness, one which Adam Sr., in contrast to Sorosky, says is a
"I'm certain that any lawyer representing the governor and went
to trial would call (Robert) as our witness," he said.
Robert was indicted on four counts of corruption, including
extortion and wire fraud, relating to the alleged attempt to sell
President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat.
Robert's defense team welcomed the dismissal. Defense attorney
Michael Ettinger was "in shock" when prosecutors informed him of
their intentions as they entered the courtroom. He composed himself
in the courthouse lobby -- something that couldn't be said of his
client when he got off the phone.
"I told him you're done, you're free, and his wife was
hysterical, crying," Ettinger said.
The former governor has no such relief. He could serve up to five
years in prison for his initial conviction, but he faces 400
additional years in connection with 23 corruption charges, including
bribery, extortion and racketeering.
The ex-governor, never shy in front of a camera, has once again
embarked on a media blitz, proclaiming his innocence to Jon Stewart,
Chris Wallace and apparently any television host or viewer who will
Adam Sr. said he talks to Blagojevich daily but steers away from
his media appearances.
"I think he's frustrated because in his own mind and in our mind
he's innocent of any crime," he said, downplaying some of
Blagojevich's more contentious interviews.
The attorneys will meet on Sept. 9 to discuss further
arrangements for the coming trial. Defense attorneys will have until
Oct. 1 to withdraw from the case.
Statehouse News; By BILL McMORRIS]