The federal prosecutors executed the first step today in their effort to streamline, simplify and make more understandable to jurors thier case against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Gov. Blagojevich's brother, Robert, was dismissed this morning from the public corruption case filed by the U. S. Attorney's office in the Northern District of Illinois. The dismissal was ordered by Judge Zagel in response to a motion by the U. S. Attorney's office in federal court in Chicago.
The jury in this case convicted former Gov. Blagojevich of one count of lying to the FBI but the jury was unable to reach unanimous agreement on the remaining twenty three counts (including the count alleging the attempted sale of President Obama's senate seat) against the former Governor of Illinois. The jury also was unable to reach agreement on the four counts against Robert Blagojevich. The judge declared a mistrial as to all counts for which the jury could not reach agreement and the government said it would retry this matter.
Sheldon Sorosky, one of the five courtroom lawyers for Rod Blagojevich, told this journalist today that the government, sometime after last Tuesday's jury verdict, offered to sever, i.e., try separately, Robert Blagojevich. This is interesting because prior to the trial, the government obviously wanted Robert Blagojevich to be tried with Rod, which is why they included them as co-defendants in the indictment. Counsel for Robert Blagojevich, prior to the trial, viewed the joint trial of Robert and Rod as a disadvantage to Robert and moved to sever Robert from the trial. Judge Zagel denied Robert Blagojevich's motion to sever.
This time around Robert Blagojevich turned down the government's offer to sever. Obviosuly, Robert's counsel and he thought that if the government wanted him out, it must be because the government realized Robert's inclusion in the trial of Rod was detrimental to the government's case. Robert, who appears to be a choir boy relative to Rod, does not add to the government's credibility in its case against Rod if it tries to persuade jurors Robert is a bad guy who does illegal things. And, of course, the big fish is the impeached, populist former Governor, Rod Blagojevich. To the feds, Robert was a guppy who was just thrown back in the sea.
As Blago's attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, told this reporter this afternoon, "The government never does any favors for a defendant." When the government wants you out of a case, it is because that would help the government. The Government couldn't get Robert Blagojevich out of its case with Rod by offering to sever and try Robert after Rod, so the prosecutors decided to move to dismiss him.
Judge Zagel did not set a new trial date for Rod Blagojevich but he said it would be sometime after January 3, 2011. The judge set September 9, 2010 at noon as the time for the next status hearing in this matter. Judge Zagel also decided two attorneys and a paralegal, with fees paid by the taxpayers, should be sufficient for Blago's defense.
Blago's attorneys for his second trial will be compensated (monetarily) at the rate of $150/hour, less than a first year associate at a large law firm. But, thier non-monetary compensation will include the notoriety of representing Rod Blagojevich, the embodiment of the best and worst of Huey Long and Elvis.
Who will Blago's attorneys be for Round 2 with the Feds? Not Sam Adam Jr. and his father, Sam Adam. Nope, although Sam Sr. denied today that anything has been decided regarding this aspect of the second trial, there is no percentage in the Adams family continuing to represent Blago, they won the first trial. Given the wiretap evidence against Rod, a mistrial on 23 of 24 counts is a win. No way any attorney would want to try to replicate that act, no matter how many times Rod shows he can handle Chris Wallace. Always best to go out on top.
Of course, Judge Zagel will decide whether to grant the Adams' expected motion to withdraw as counsel, but it is unlikely he would compel Sam and Sam, Jr. to continue to represent Rod. Moreover, anything involving Rod Blagojeivich is mostly entertainment, and you can't have a new show without at least some new cast members. It is doubtful that the Feds will want to risk bringing Rezko and Levine off the bench, so it is up to Rod to sub for his top two lawyers. As they say, "The show must go on."