Blago: Government 'railroaded' me

April 14, 2011 3:31:03 AM PDT
Former governor Rod Blagojevich Wednesday accused the government of blocking the truth in its effort to convict him on corruption charges.

During his appearance Wednesday outside his Ravenswood Manor home, Blagojevich again appeared defiant, claiming he had been "railroaded" by the government, accusing the government of trying to prevent his defense attorneys from proving his innocence.

" I have said from the very beginning that I have been falsely accused of things I never did nor did I ever intend to do," said Blagojevich. "I'm innocent."

It was a little reminiscent of one year ago this month, when Blagojevich walked in front of live cameras and in a combative tone challenged the U.S. attorney to meet him the following day in court - if he were man enough.

Among a crowd of media and curious neighbors, one bystander found the street theater compelling, saying: "You couldn't turn on the TV tonight and get as good entertainment as I got over the past hour-and-a-half."

"It's almost as if the cherry blossoms in [Washington,] D.C. signal springtime - the public appearances of Blagojevich signal a trial must be around the corner," said former assistant U.S. attorney Patrick Collins.

While unusual, some experts say Blagojevich's strategy may prove effective.

"The more that he can get his story out and his persona out, it does help him," said Harold Krent dean of Chicago-Kent College of Law.

He has maintained a lower profile than before the start of his first trial, but with jury selection to start next week, lawyers with both defense and prosecution backgrounds expected that Rod Blagojevich would play to the court of public opinion.

"It's absolutely part of the strategy to get who he is outside of the courtroom into that courtroom," said Collins.

The Blagojevich concern is that his defense team may not be able to say all it wants to say - or infer - when the trial gets underway.

A new government motion would significantly limit any mention of secret tapes not played in front of the jury.

The tapes played in the first trial amounted to a fraction of the total secret recordings, and defense lawyers were essentially able to say: Well, what about all those other tapes? Their inference - that there was important information that the government was withholding.

Prosecutors say nothing relevant was withheld, and that giving defense lawyers that latitude invites improper speculation.

Blagojevich says it is simply unfair, and that the government is trying to further handcuff him.

Trial consultants say that part of this effort is meant to get the public and potential jurors to ask themselves if the ex-governor's conviction for lying is enough. Why should the government get another bite at the apple?

"This isn't double jeopardy," said jury and trial consultant Beth Foley. "It's a mistrial, but there's still a sense with some people in the venue that they shouldn't go at him again. Let it go, drop it. You had your chance."

Blagojevich faces a daunting challenge, as prosecutors generally seem to enjoy an advantage in a second trial, and he lacks the lead attorneys who defended him in his first trial.

As for the motions in conflict, they go before Judge Zagel Thursday at Dirksen Federal Building. Arguments over unsealing some evidence in the case will be heard. Blagojevich will not be in court Thursday, but is expected to be back in court next Wednesday for jury selection.