Blago brother pleads not guilty

February 11, 2010 2:54:11 PM PST
The brother of former governor Rod Blagojevich returned to court Thursday morning and pleaded not guilty to new charges. On Wednesday, the former governor pleaded not guilty to a series of new charges as well.

The former governor is accused of trying to sell now-President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. Now the brothers have been reindicted on revamped corruption charges. Rod Blagojevich faces eight new charges and Robert Blagojevich faces three new charges.

Robert Blagojevich says he is in the fight of his life and admits ties to his brother have been strained by the case. Robert Blagojevich appeared before U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Thursday for less than two minutes.

After court he told reporters he is fighting to preserve his good name and that relations with brother Rod are no longer what they were. But he said the two brothers would get through it.

The new charges basically reiterate previous ones because some of the old charges have been challenged by problems with a disputed law called the Honest Services Statute. The prosecutors are counting on that statute, but it's being disputed in the Supreme Court.

Legal analysts say add being the new charges will ensure that the trial will start on time in June.

On Wednesday, Rod Blagojevich challenged prosecutors to play all 500 hours of the wiretap tapes the prosecution reported have as evidence. He said he believes if all of those tapes are heard that his name will be cleared.

Blagojevich's attorneys filed a motion to allow them to play most of the FBI tapes of his telephone conversations at his trial.

Before his arrest, the government spent a month and a half secretly tape recording Blagojevich phone conversations. There are so many hours of tape that by rough estimate it'd take three weeks of nonstop listening to hear them all.

Clearly in that mountain of tape are conversations that have no real bearing on the criminal charges. Only pieces will be played at trial. But the ex-governor, sounding like the captain of his legal team, said Wednesday every "second" of those tapes should be played in public.

At one point, he gave a hug to a lady in the lobby before being urged by court security officers to keep moving.

"What is your plea?" he is asked by Judge James Zagel. "Innocent to each and every charge," Blagojevich responded.

Then minutes later, marching directly to the cameras, Blagojevich declared, "I am laying down the gauntlet, challenging the government to play every second, every minute and every hour of its secret Blago tape recordings.

"I challenge the government. If you're on the side of truth and justice as you say you are, and if this was a crime spree like you claim it was, then don't hide behind technicalities, play all the tapes. Play all the tapes," said Blagojevich. .

The defense says there are about 500 hours of taped phone conversations, and although Blagojevich says he wants all of them played, his lawyers acknowledge that some of it just won't be relevant..

"We're not going to say that we need to hear a conversation he had with somebody about the Atlanta Hawks. We're talking about any tape that has to do with this trial," said Sam Adam, Blagojevich attorney.

As in any case, the prosecution and defense will scrap over what evidence each believes is relevant and what the jury ought to hear. But there is a strategy behind "play all the tapes."

"The strategy may be that the more hours that are aired, the jury will look at the snippets played by the prosecutors and downplay those," said Harold Krent, dean, Kent College of Law.

"When I take the stand and I testify and swear on the Holy Bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I expect, and the people of Illinois expect and deserve, that the government will do the same," said Blagojevich.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.