A federal grand jury returned a new indictment against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his brother this afternoon, in a move aimed at avoiding problems with a disputed law now being weighed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 113-page indictment adds eight new charges against Blagojevich and others and among the charges is the alleged attempted extortion of Rahm Emanuel and Emanuel's brother when the now-Presidential chief of staff was a congressman.
Rod Blagojevich now faces 24 counts in all. The eight new counts do not involve violating the honest services statute and lawyers for Blagojevich say the charges do not allege any new conduct.
"It merely alleges the same old, same old under different legal theories," said Blagojevich lawyer Sheldon Sorosky.
Another Rod Blagojevich lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, said the new charges will not translate into a trial date extension. He said the new indictment reflects a difference in legal reasoning by the government rather than substantive differences.
"It doesn't change the strategy at all. We've maintained from day one that the governor is innocent," Goldstein said. "The core facts are the same and that is that he didn't do anything wrong. We anticipate being ready, and we anticipate going forward. The governor's maintained from day one that he's done nothing wrong and our stance is the same since the day he was arrested."
But the lawyer for Rob Blagojevich wasn't so sure. Attorney Michael Ettinger said the new charges alter his defense strategy and means he will have to listen to hundreds of hours of tape again.
The bribery conspiracy, attempted extortion and extortion conspiracy charges puts the ex-governor's brother in the middle of the "whole process of appointing a senator," instead of more minimal involvement, Ettinger said.
"These are different factual allegations for my client," Ettinger said. "Because how I listened to them the first time, I paid attention to different factual allegations."
The new charges are: racketeering, attempted extortion involving Emanuel and his brother, bribery involving the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital, bribery involving a construction executive, conspiracy to commit bribery involving a Racetrack executive, conspiracy to commit extortion tied to appointing a U.S. Senator, attempted extortion in relation to a U.S. Senate seat appointment and conspiracy to commit bribery involving the senate seat appointment.
Prosecutors added the new charges for similar conduct against the Blagojevich brothers as a legal maneuver to help keep the case on track for a June trial even if the Supreme Court strikes down the honest services statute beforehand.
The high court has taken up three cases dealing with the honest services statute -- something the Blagojevich brothers are now accused of violating.
The new indictment likely means that both the ex-governor and his brother, of Nashville, Tenn., will soon make an appearance again in federal court to formally enter a plea to the new indictment.
Even if honest services is revamped, U.S. District Judge James Zagel has said he was unlikely to give much of an extension.
Robert Blagojevich talks to the Chicago Sun-Times last fall.