Impeached former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, 52, has been indicted Thursday on 19 felony counts by a federal grand jury for racketeering, conspiracy and wire fraud. The indictment accuses Blagojevich of a “scheme to deprive the people of Illinois of honest government.”
Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested in December on federal corruption charges and, in early January, federal Judge James Holderman gave the prosecutors three additional months to decide whether to indict Blagojevich. The allegations do not simply focus on the selling of Obama’s Senate seat but withholding state assistance to the Tribune Co., which was trying to sell Wrigley Field, to put pressure on the Tribune for its criticism of him as well as shaking down individuals and companies for contributions.
Blagojevich may want to ask for the same crackerjack prosecution team that led to the dismissal of the case against Sen. Ted. Stevens, here. Even without that advantage, however, this is not an easy case. It can be a be murky line between political and criminal acts in seeking benefits for such decisions. Politicians are rarely as crude as Blagojevich and his wife, but they often expect some type of support and assistance from those who benefit from political decisions. The defense may try to put other politicians on the stand to show that they routinely received contributions from people that they assisted and pursue this “just politics” defense.
Frankly, as a native Chicagoan, I was not shocked by the conduct — only the degree that it was caught on tape. This trial is likely to see some heavy pre-trial action, including motions to exclude both evidence and arguments coming from both sides.
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