- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) - Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is due to appear in federal court to answer racketeering and fraud charges with the exact makeup of his legal defense team and where he will get the money to pay them still uncertain.

Blagojevich, 52, is due to appear for arraignment Tuesday along with his brother, Robert, and former chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly, on charges that among other things he schemed to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.

He is also charged with planning to squeeze companies seeking state business for money and plotting to use the financial muscle of the governor’s office to pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers calling for his impeachment.

A heavy complement of reporters and camera crews is expected for the governor’s arrival. Court officials say there will be no special treatment for Blagojevich when he arrives at the skyscraper Everett M. Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

Some well known defendants have been allowed to come and go through a back elevator and an underground tunnel, thus avoiding the cameras and shouted questions.

Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky, a longtime Blagojevich friend, is expected to stand by the impeached governor’s side when he appears before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel to enter his plea.

Other defense attorneys have been reluctant to file an appearance with the court on behalf of the governor because it could lock them into a case that could consume thousands of hours over the next two years without any guarantee they would be paid.

Attorneys say Blagojevich is unable to afford the kind of elaborate defense that the blue chip Chicago law firm of Winston & Strawn provided to former Gov. George Ryan when former Gov. James R. Thompson, a longtime Ryan friend, was the firm’s chairman.

Winston & Strawn defended Ryan for free. But no big names among Chicago’s criminal defense lawyers are lining up to provide free services to Blagojevich.

Blagojevich does have money in his Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund. But federal prosecutors have put defense attorneys on notice they will ask Zagel to order the campaign money forfeited if Blagojevich is convicted of the charges.

Defense attorneys could be ordered to return their fees if they dipped into the campaign fund only to have the court order it forfeited.

There has even been speculation that Blagojevich might have to turn to the federal defender’s program if Zagel doesn’t assure attorneys they can be paid through the campaign fund.

Three other defendants in the case, former aides John Harris and Alonzo Monk and Springfield millionaire William Cellini, are to be arraigned on Thursday.

Harris, a former Blagojevich chief of staff, is cooperating with the federal investigation. Monk, also a former chief of staff and campaign manager, is reported to be cooperating with the investigation as well.

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