CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich faces a second federal trial on corruption charges early next year and will stand as the sole defendant following the prosecution’s announcement Thursday that it would drop charges against his brother, Robert Blagojevich.
U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel, who presided over the first trial that began June 3, said he expects the new trial to start as soon as the first week of January.
The hearing in Zagel’s courtroom Thursday was the first following Rod Blagojevich’s conviction last week on just one of 24 counts against him. Jurors deadlocked on the other 23 and the four counts against his elder brother, who had served as campaign chairman for the then-governor for four months during 2008.
After the verdict, Zagel declared a mistrial on the undecided counts and prosecutors announced their intent to proceed with a second trial.
The single guilty verdict on the charge of lying to a federal agent was considered the least serious of all the charges against him. It stemmed from a 2005 conversation interview during which Blagojevich told the Federal Bureau of Investigation he maintained a “firewall” between his campaign fundraising and government actions.
Blagojevich plans to appeal the conviction.
In the other development during the hearing Thursday, prosecutors with U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office dismissed the charges against Robert, citing his less central role in using alleged illegal fundraising tactics. A handful of jurors in published interviews have said they nearly acquitted him.
In the new trial, the former governor faces counts alleging mail fraud, racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, attempted extortion, extortion conspiracy, bribery, and bribery conspiracy. Prosecutors allege the governor and three associates hoped to personally profit from many pay-to-play schemes, including one involving the state’s $10 billion pension bond sale in 2003.
The most prominent charge alleges Blagojevich sought to personally profit from his power to appoint President Obama’s replacement as U.S. senator from Illinois after he was elected president. Conversations caught on wiretap during which Blagojevich discussed benefitting from the Senate appointment in the fall of 2008 prompted federal authorities to arrest him in December 2008. The General Assembly removed Blagojevich from office early in 2009 through impeachment.