Taxpayers likely to foot Blago's legal bills in retrial

August 18, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Some Illinois residents say trying Blagojevich a second time would be too expensive since his defense fund - the Friends of the Blagojevich Campaign Fund - has been depleted.

The Clerk of Courts reports that last week Rod Blagojevich's attorneys asked to get paid and the bill was more than what was available in the fund. As a result, the taxpayers will likely pay his legal bills in the event of a retrial.

Now that the former governor will likely face another trial, his attorneys are tossing out a million dollar question.

"I wish this entire group would go upstairs and ask Mr. Fitzgerald one question. I understand he has an important job, but why are we spending $25 to $30 million on a retrial and you couldn't prove it the first time," said Sam Adams, Jr., attorney for Blagojevich, during a fiery news conference after Tuesday's verdict.

Fitzgerald and his team would not comment on camera Wednesday. But is $25 or $30 million feasible?

"I don't know where Sam got that from. I don't know where that figure comes from," said Professor Ron Smith, John Marshall Law School.

Smith called it a creative defense move, but one that needs to be double checked.

"I'm a lawyer and I don't want to say that anybody is dead wrong until I see their evidence, so what's the evidence?" Prof. Smith.

The U.S. Attorney's Office had a one-line statement about the financial issue Wednesday, saying: "We do not maintain or provide the cost of a single case or prosecution."

The office, however, did point out that, every year, it typically returns more money to the federal treasury in the collection of fines, forfeitures and civil judgments than it spends.

"This is what the government spends when it wants to send a message - don't cross the line - whether you are a governor, or bank president or some mailman who decides to take some mail home at night. They send a message, don't do it," said Prof. Smith.

When it comes to federal resources, not only is the U.S. Attorney's Office involved but investigators and resources from the IRS, FBI, Labor Department and Postal Inspector were also tapped.

As for the defense, court records show that Blagojevich's fund started with nearly $3 million. The latest legal bills filed last week totaled more than $75,000 and wiped the fund out.

Professor Smith says judges in these types of cases almost always keep the same defense attorneys on the case.

There were seven lawyers representing Rod Blagojevich during his corruption trial. We know that some of them – like Aaron Goldstein - would like to stay on the case.

If taxpayers start paying for Blagojevich's defense, the rate stays the same. The attorneys will make $125 an hour.

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