The pace of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial has taken a lot of people by surprise — including, apparently, his own lawyers.
They are expected to argue before the presiding judge as soon as Tuesday for several extra days to prepare their defense.
As proceedings began early last month, it was widely believed prosecutors could take as long as two months to get through their witnesses. They say they could be done this week, possibly even on Tuesday.
But one of Blagojevich's attorneys, Sam Adam Sr., said the faster-than-expected progress has made it hard to round up witnesses who had expected to take the stand in August. Some of those witnesses are unavailable now, he said.
"We have a constitutional guarantee to call witnesses," Adam said.
One of the last prosecution witnesses who is expected to take the stand Tuesday is an FBI agent who will discuss Blagojevich's mounting legal bills in 2008 — expenses prosecutors will argue contributed to his desperation for cash.
Just before the trial adjourned for the day on Monday, prosecutors told the court that Blagojevich owed defense attorneys more than $1.2 million in early 2008 after years of federal investigations focusing on his administration.
In March 2008, prosecutors said, the Chicago law firm of Winston & Strawn was pressing the governor for payment after receiving nothing since the previous year, and that Blagojevich eventually settled the bill for $750,000 — much of it from campaign contributions.
Prosecutors offered into evidence an FBI chart showing the campaign money flowing into Blagojevich's legal defense — designed to illustrate that the former governor personally benefited from the political donations jurors have heard him pressing hard to get.
Blagojevich's defense team tried to get U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel to bar the government from showing jurors the chart. Zagel said it was too detailed and called on the government to produce a toned-down version on Tuesday.
"There isn't a scintilla of evidence in the document the government wants to present that shows that Gov. Blagojevich is guilty of the crimes that are charged," defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky said. He also said that the bills were from Blagojevich's former attorneys and that his current defense team isn't getting close to the same high rates.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to trade or sell President Barack Obama's former Senate seat and plotting to launch a racketeering operation in the governor's office. His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme involving the Senate seat and plotting to pressure businessmen for donations.
Blagojevich left Winston & Strawn after settling his bill there. His defense team now consists of Adam and his son, Sam Adam Jr., Sorosky and Aaron Goldstein as well as a group of so-called contract lawyers who do the behind-the-scenes work. The new team has still been billing the campaign fund with court approval.
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