Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

Lawyer: Blagojevich can cancel trial -- by pleading guilty

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Rod Blagojevich threw a Hail Mary pass Wednesday, saying he wants to cancel his upcoming retrial by asking to be sentenced immediately.

It left legal observers scratching their heads, considering 20 counts remain pending against the former governor.

"It's silly," says Richard Kling, a defense lawyer and Kent Law School professor. "He has no bargaining power with respect to sentencing. To say: 'I'm willing to be sentenced on something I'm already supposed to be sentenced on,' is really saying nothing."

Blagojevich's lawyers filed a five-page motion Wednesday morning asking to proceed to sentencing right away and avoid a retrial that's set to begin April 20, saying in part, that they haven't been paid. A budget crisis in Washington D.C. has recently meant public defenders would have to wait on payments coming from taxpayer coffers.

Kling said that's not a reason for abandoning a case.

"If he wanted to say, I want to negotiate a plea...that might be something the prosecution might be willing to listen to," Kling said.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel and federal prosecutors would have to agree to dismiss the remaining counts against the former governor.

"There's charges pending, the only way they get out of those charges is if the government drops them," says Michael Ettinger, a federal defense lawyer who represented Blagojevich's brother, Robert. Charges against Rob Blagojevich were dropped after the last trial. Ettinger said though it is imperative that defense lawyers get paid in the case.

In the summer, Blagojevich was convicted of just one out of 24 counts against him -- lying to the FBI. That count carries a maximum five-year penalty. Remaining counts could mean up to 20 years in prison.
Jurors in the first trial were deadlocked on the remaining counts. But among those remaining are accusations that the former governor tried selling President Obama's U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich narrowly missed conviction on the Senate seat counts, with jurors voting 11-1 on many of the charges.

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Another thing, it would have been nice if Obama or Clinton had stood up for their fellow man, in light of how weak the charges turned out to be (including the lying charge). It seems that the story here is that after the elections, the government wanted to send the message that it was cleaning house. In order to do that, they found a scapegoat who was inoffensive but easy to blame (because of his obvious ethnic origins).

Yeah, but a real court usually also listens to arguments made by the defense. The whole trial was a publicity stunt. Yet the American people are supposed to have a problem with what facial expressions a guy makes when his whole livelihood is on the line.

When does the prosecution release their witness list to the defense and the public???

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This page contains a single entry by Natasha Korecki published on March 9, 2011 12:33 PM.


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