Blago Brother Off Hook, Blago Retrial in 2011
They're shuffling the deck in the federal re-trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Blagojevich's brother Robert Blagojevich on Thursday, saying he had less of a role in the federal corruption case. There were four felony charges against the ex-governor's brother and the jury was deadlocked on all charges in a recently ended trial.
A re-trial of Rod Blagojevich, which observers thought would take place during the run-up to the fall elections, will now take place in 2011, according to presiding judge James B. Zagel. Citing scheduling conflicts over the holidays, the judge denied the federal prosecutors an earlier start. The judge also requested a report on Blagojevich's finances to determine whether or not he is broke and qualified to receive legal help. He cut the ex-governor's legal team to two lawyers (he formerly had an entire team) and said he would appoint the advocates if it's determined that Blagojevich is in financial need.
The surprise announcements mean that the Democrats don't have as much to fret about this election season. Earlier, the party had been worried that Republicans would make hay with accusations about Democratic corruption with the Blago trial going on during election season. The truth, of course, is that Democrats have no lock on corruption, and former Republican Governor George Ryan is sitting right now in the federal penitentiary doing time for taking bribes while in office.
Although federal prosecutors complained about the 2011 court date, it gives them plenty of time to streamline a case against Blagojevich, since the 23-count prosecution clearly didn't work, ending in deadlock on 22 counts and conviction only on lying to FBI agents—a conviction Blagojevich will appeal. Look for the feds to knock off some of the lesser counts, bring in some some convincing witnesses, perhaps go for some "star" witnesses on its subpoena list such as Rahm Emmanuel, and hammer home the idea that quid pro quo cases don't always need to end up with the merchandise being delivered. If U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald waited until Blagojevich installed a new senator in President Barack Obama's old seat it would have been too late to stop the "one-man crime wave" Fitzgerald described.
As for Blagojevich's brother, it's long been considered that the case against him was small potatoes. Many considered him the "bag man," his protestations that "I have done nothing wrong" notwithstanding. Still, the prosecution loses nothing by dropping this attack.