- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CHICAGO — A federal judge refused Wednesday to postpone the June start of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s corruption trial, brushing aside defense attorneys’ claims that they won’t have enough time to prepare.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel also dismissed defense attorneys’ concerns that U.S. Supreme Court decisions expected by the end of June could complicate the trial unfairly.

Judge Zagel said he saw no reason not to start the case June 3 as scheduled.

Mr. Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to racketeering, conspiracy and other charges. Prosecutors say the former governor schemed to sell or trade President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat and used his power to pressure potential campaign donors illegally.

Defense attorneys urged Judge Zagel to postpone the start of the trial to Nov. 3 to give them time to wade through the sea of paperwork in the case and because the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the so-called honest-services fraud law, which is among the laws Mr. Blagojevich is accused of breaking.

Mr. Blagojevich and his businessman brother Robert are charged, among other things, with illegally denying the taxpayers their honest services. The Supreme Court is considering three cases that challenge the law, which critics say is too vague.

Defense attorneys argued that their opening statements would be ruined if they used them to explain the honest-services law only to have the Supreme Court wipe it off the books.

But Judge Zagel said attorneys should not be talking about the law in their opening statements, and instead should outline for the jury what the evidence would show.

“The issue in this case is simply who did what, when and what was in their state of mind when they did it,” Judge Zagel said.

He said he would tell the jury about the law at the end of the trial.

After the hearing, Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters that the defense would do the “absolute best” it can, even though the defense lawyers didn’t get the extension they had hoped for.

“Judge Zagel is right that the facts are the facts,” Mr. Sorosky said. “That’s certainly a fact of life.”

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