Blagojevich Trial: And Then There Were Two
The Government has agreed to sever the trial of William Cellini, a co-defendant of former Ill. Governor Rod Blagojovech. The reason: After dismissing the charges against deceased Chris Kelly, who was the link between Cellini and Blago (and because Cellini's charges, while he was named an unindicted co-conspirator in Blago's counts, had very little to do with either Blagojevich brother, absent the tie-in from Kelly,) the Government agreed that it was fairer to try Cellini separately. So the Government filed a motion, with which Cellini's lawyers agreed, that Cellini's trial should be severed and proceed after Blagojevich's trial. The Court approved.
Blagojevich's Chief of Staff, Robert Harris, agreed to an early plea deal, so he's gone. Last month, another co-defendant, Alonzo Monk, took a deal for 24 months in exchange for cooperating against Blagojevich (plea agreeement here.) Now that Cellini, Monk and Kelly are gone, the only two left are Rod Blagojevich and his brother Robert Blagojevich.[More..]
In a motion to continue his trial, which is still pending, Blago's lawyers have taken to calling Blago "Rod" instead of Rod Blagojevich or Blagojevich, to avoid confusion between Rod and Rob.
Blago is seeking a trial delay so they can have the benefit of the Supreme Court ruling in the "honest services" fraud cases that will likely be decided in the next few months.
The Judge granted the Cellini severance but hasn't ruled on the trial continuance yet. Robert Blagojevich is going to file his own severance motion shortly.
Does it help Blago to go to trial alone rather than with his brother? And does his brother benefit more form a separate trial? On the one hand, if Robert is small potatoes, a jury might find Brother Bob wasn't part of the conspiracy and acquit him. On the other, if tried together, they may decided this was a family greed scheme and convict both.
Cellini is also mounting a defense to the wiretaps, based on minimization. That hasn't been ruled on yet.
Tossing the honest services counts alone will help Blagojevich a little bit, but not enough, if the jury finds him guilty on the other charges.
Blago's lawyers are still fighting over discovery. They want the list of co-conspirators the Government maintains were part of his charged conspiracy, and they want it now, not the day before trial.
And Blago is not as rich as others may have thought him to be. He's now a "quasi-cja" defendant, meaning a big chunk of his legal fees and expenses are being paid under the Criminal Justice Act, which applies to indigent defendants. The funds are coming from those deposited in his campaign fund, which was seized by seized by the Government.
As of now, it looks like the Blagojevich brothers will stand trial together...unless Brother Bob prevails in his severance motion, and in that case, Rod will be flying solo.
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