Judge grants request to delay Blagojevich retrial

October 22, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The former governor was not in court.

Blagojevich's new smaller defense team asked for the delay, saying they are overworked and can not be ready for a January retrial date. The judge said the retrial could be different enough in substance and gave defense attorneys three and a half more months to prepare.

Blagojevich's attorneys were all smiles after Judge James Zagel granted their motion for a continuance.

"We have such a small team compared to what the government has. They have every single element, every single attorney at their disposal. They have FBI agents, they have all this help, and we have two lawyers," said Aaron Goldstein, Blagojevich's attorney.

Those two attorneys, Sheldon Sorosky and Goldstein, were part of the original Blagojevich defense team which consisted of 14 lawyers in all, including Sam Adam Senior and Junior. But with Blagojevich's legal fund depleted forcing the public to pay for this second defense Judge Zagel earlier this month granted Blagojevich just two taxpayer-funded lawyers.

"We only have half our resources, so the judge gave us some extra time to prepare for trial," said Sorosky.

In court papers, the defense cited as reasons for a continuance the "vast amount of discovery" evidence and potential for new witnesses to be called, including convicted political insiders Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine.

"They don't know yet exactly who the witnesses for the government will be, and they have fewer people who can help prepare the cross examination," said Ann Lousin, law professor, John Marshall Law School.

Defense attorneys also argued the timing of the February mayoral race could influence a January jury selection.

During the first trial, mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel was named as an alleged Blagojevich victim and audio recordings captured his discussions with the former governor's staff about possible Senate picks.

"I think that was a big factor because he's a potential witness in this case and a significant candidate for mayor, and that obviously has to have some effect on a potential jury pool," said Sorosky.

Judge Zagel rejected that mayor's race argument but agreed the defense needs more time to prepare.

"We'll take it. That's all we can say. We would have liked even more time, quite frankly," said Goldstein.

Judge Zagel also indicated he would likely reject a defense motion for a retrial on count 24, the lone count Blagojevich was convicted on for lying to the FBI.

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