CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge in Chicago has set an April 20 trial date for the second corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Blagojevich's defense attorneys on Friday asked Judge James Zagel to put off the trial, which was originally expected as early as January. The judge agreed with the attorneys, who say they need more time to prepare now that fewer lawyers are on the Democrat's defense team.
A fund the ex-governor tapped to pay more than a dozen attorneys at his first trial has run dry, meaning taxpayers will be footing his legal bills. Because of that, Zagel has said Blagojevich can only have two attorneys and a paralegal.
Blagojevich was convicted of lying to the FBI in his first trial, but jurors deadlocked on 23 other counts.
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CHICAGO (AP) — Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich asked Friday for a five-month delay of the ousted Illinois governor's corruption retrial, saying his scaled-down defense team is overworked and can't be ready in time for a trial that was set to begin as early as January.
A fund the ex-governor tapped to pay more than a dozen attorneys and aides at his first trial has run dry. And now that Blagojevich must rely on taxpayers to cover his legal bills, Judge James Zagel has ruled he can have just two attorneys and a paralegal.
In a defense motion filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Friday, Blagojevich's attorneys argued that getting proceedings under way sooner than May could result in an unfair trial.
"It would force . . . two trial lawyers to proceed hastily to trial in circumstances where the government's resources and lawyers have not been reduced nor changed at all," the motion said.
At his retrial, Blagojevich faces 23 charges, including that he sought to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat for a top job or campaign cash. Jurors at his first 2 1/2-month trial agreed only on one of 24 counts, convicting him of lying to the FBI.
A diminished defense must, among other things, work up cross-examination strategies, an opening and a closing. In the first trial, defense attorneys split those duties, the motion said.
Among the attorneys no longer participating in Blagojevich's defense is Sam Adam Jr., who delivered the crucial opening statement and closing argument the first go around.
Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years all fall between now and January, holidays that will further cut into the attorneys' time to prepare, Friday's motion adds.
Zagel could rule on the motion at a status hearing that was scheduled for later Friday.
But at other recent hearings where defense attorneys complained about now being outgunned by the government, the no-nonsense presiding judge has sounded less than sympathetic.
Zagel has noted that hundreds of court documents, wiretap transcripts and other potential evidence have already been vetted — meaning there should be far less preparation needed for the retrial than the original one.
The two designated defense attorneys for the second round are Sheldon Sorosky, a longtime friend of Blagojevich; and the younger, less-well-known Aaron Goldstein. Their team also includes Lauren Kaeseberg, who is an attorney but, in name, will be Blagojevich's paralegal.
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