Tales from the Trail

Blagojevich’s retrial postponed until April 2011

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich won a delay until April 20 of his scheduled retrial on corruption charges, which means the trial won’t be going on while Chicagoans vote for their next mayor.

Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court granted the defense request for a delay, saying the Democrat’s scaled-down defense team will have to “retool” when he is retried on nearly two-dozen corruption counts. Among the charges are that Blagojevich attempted to sell President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. USA-BLAGOJEVICH/

The first trial ended with Blagojevich convicted of lying to investigators while the jury deadlocked on 23 other counts, leading Zagel to declare a mistrial on those charges. A lone juror was reported to be the holdout among jurors intent on convicting him of additional charges, and prosecutors wanted to retry him in early January.

Testimony spared Obama administration officials any embarrassment, though former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel apparently held discussions about the Senate seat with Blagojevich.

Emanuel resigned earlier this month and is laying the groundwork for a campaign for mayor of Chicago, with the election to replace the retiring Richard Daley taking place Feb. 22.

Tips from juror for Blago retrial

Patrick Fitzgerald take note — when you retry Rod Blagojevich, keep it simple.BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/

That’s the advice of the foreman of the hung jury that was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on 23 counts in the corruption case against the ousted Illinois governor.

Jury foreman James Matsumoto told NBC’s “Today Show” that prosecutors should re-try the case. Asked what advice he had for U.S. attorney Fitzgerald, Matsumoto said:

Blago judge says Obama doesn’t have to testify

BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/The federal judge overseeing the corruption trial of  Rod Blagojevich said he sees no need for President Barack Obama to testify, denying a defense request, though he left open the possibility.

“The testimony of the president is not material to this case,” James Zagel of the U.S. District Court in Chicago said at a hearing on Friday.

The issue, as Zagel framed it, was whether Blagojevich thought that a union official coming to see him about who best to fill Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat was an emissary for the president.

Blagojevich asks for President Obama to testify

Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys have asked for President Barack Obama to testify at the former Illinois governor’s corruption trial, saying he would be “a critical witness.”

In an apparent mechanical error, blacked-out portions of the defense’s request were visible for some time online, and were subsequently published on the websites of Chicago’s daily  newspapers.

Among the disclosures in the redacted portions of the defense motion were that Obama spoke to Blagojevich on December 1, 2008, eight days before Blagojevich was arrested by FBI agents.

No head-butting, judge tells Blagojevich

No head-butting, no fighting, no macho posturing, the judge overseeing former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s upcoming corruption trial said on Wednesday.USA-BLAGOJEVICH/

If the federal courtroom is sounding more like a boxing ring, the disgraced politician suggested as much. On Tuesday Blagojevich called out prosecutor U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, telling reporters “I hope you’re man enough to be there (in court) tomorrow too.”

Blagojevich adopted a calmer tone after Judge James Zagel told both sides he alone would decide which evidence would be heard and that he would “not permit the legal equivalent of head-butting.”