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Blagojevich trial rescheduled to Wednesday

Friday, May 20, 2011

No testimony was heard Friday in the corruption trial of Rod Blagojevich, but there was plenty of legal maneuvering by the former governor's defense team.

An email sent Friday afternoon indicated the defense will begin to present its case on Wednesday instead of Monday as planned. There was no explanation.

Sheldon Sorosky is keeping the defense plan close to the vest. Roughly 10 names, some of which are well known, are on the witness list, but defense attorneys are not releasing that to the public -- yet.

"All these prominent people have been subpoenaed before. They all know they've been subpoenaed," Sorosky said.

The slew of subpoenas in the first trial last year went to Rahm Emanuel, Dick Durbin, Jesse Jackson Junior, and Nevada Senator Harry Reid, among others. None was called because there was no defense in that first trial.

Blagojevich's team said they will present a defense this time, but would not disclose who would be called. The ex-governor's brother, Robert, who was dismissed as a defendant after the first trial, could also be on the witness list. But ultimately, it comes down to the ex-governor himself.

Sources say, as it stands as of Friday, the defense plants to call Rod Blagojevich. Former Prosecutor Jeff Kramer calls it a Hail Mary against an experienced prosecutor.

"Armed with hundreds of tapes, dozens of witnesses, Lord knows how many documents, the defendant's going to answer some questions, not some of the interviews he did before the first trial to balk and say, 'My lawyers don't want me to answer.' Now he's on the stand and he needs to answer questions... He just needs to win one," Kramer said.

Blagojevich's lead attorney won't confirm his plans, but said Friday he believes the jury would feel cheated if it didn't hear from Blagojevich.

"You're talking about human beings. And human beings, naturally, will think if he didn't do it and there is nothing to hide, why wouldn't he get up and say so? Regardless of the jury instructions, that is sometimes hard for a judge or lawyer to do," Prof. Lance Northcutt, John Marshall Law School, said.

Jurors are instructed not to hold it against a defendant who chooses not to testify. In fact, after the first trial, a number of jurors ABC7 spoke to said they didn't consider it a negative that Blagojevich didn't testify even though his attorney promised he would at the start of the trial. This time, there was no such promise. However, this time, the prosecution's case has been more focused.

Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 charges in this second trial. Last year he was found guilty on 1 of 24 charges in his first corruption trial. He is accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat and shaking down several local organizations for campaign contributions.

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