ICPR has taken the Paul Simon Fellows to the trial for two days now. Click here to see their reflections.
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The jury in last summer's trial found Rod Blagojevich guilty of making a false statement to the FBI but could not reach unanimous agreement on the other charges. In an effort to streamline the case, prosecutors dropped three charges against the former governor: racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, and one count of wire fraud.
Prosecutors said that the dropped charges were duplicative; the underlying conduct was still charged in the remaining 20 counts. Dropping the racketeering charges eliminated at least 30 pages of jury instructions, which jurors in the first trial complained were burdensome and confusing.
The 20 charges remaining against Blagojevich:
10 counts of Wire Fraud
These charges reflect statements by phone in which Blagojevich schemed to sell a U.S. Senate seat and to extort money in exchange for state aid.
4 counts Attempted Extortion
These charges allege Blagojevich attempted to extort a variety of personal benefits including campaign contributions, a Hollywood fundraiser thrown by the brother of Rahm Emanuel, and federal government appointments in exchange for various official state acts including a state school grant, state aid to a tollway project, Medicaid payments to Children’s Memorial Hospital, and appointment to a U.S. Senate seat.
2 counts Extortion Conspiracy
These charges reflect acts in furtherance of Blagojevich’s attempt to extort money and personal benefits in return for state aid to a racetrack and appointment to a U.S. Senate seat.
2 counts Bribery
These charges allege Blagojevich participated in bribery for state assistance to Children’s Memorial Hospital and a tollway project.
2 counts Bribery Conspiracy
These charges reflect acts in furtherance of Blagojevich’s schemes to benefit from state assistant to a racetrack as well as his scheme to sell a U.S. Senate seat.
Presiding: Judge James Zagel, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, again presides over the Blagojevich’s trial. Judge Zagel previously served as the director of the Illinois Department of Revenue and the director of the Illinois Department of State Police.
Prosecuting: The three prosecutors for the federal government have worked as a team before, including the case against Tony Rezko that resulted in his conviction on counts of fraud and money-laundering. Reid Schar is the deputy chief of public corruption in the US Attorney’s office. Schar served as a prosecutor on the Hamas fund-raising trial of Muhammad Salah. Carrie Hamilton is the coordinator for child exploitation and prostitution cases in the US Attorney’s Office. Hamilton also served as a prosecutor on the trial of Muhammad Salad and also prosecuted ex-Death Row inmate Aaron Patterson on gun and drug charges. Christopher Niewoehner is the deputy chief of general crimes in the US Attorney’s Office. Niewoehner also served as a prosecutor on the trial of Aaron Patterson and also prosecuted former Chicago Alderman Ed Vrdolyak on fraud charges.
Defending: Blagojevich is being defended by Sheldon Sorosky and Aaron Goldstein. Both served on Blagojevich’s first defense team. Sorosky served as an assistant state’s attorney from 1967 to 1972 before going into private practice. He represented Deborah Mell, Patti Blagojevich’s sister, after she allegedly charged a police officer during a rally for gay marriage; she was later acquitted of the misdemeanor battery charges. Aaron Goldstein worked as a public defender before opening a private practice.