- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) — Rod Blagojevich, the impeached former governor of Illinois, asked a judge on Wednesday to cancel his retrial and promptly sentence him on the sole conviction from his first trial, arguing that money woes prevent him from mounting an ample defense.

A five-page motion filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago insists that Blagojevich isn’t conceding any guilt, including on the conviction of lying to the FBI. That’s the lone count jurors agreed on at his otherwise deadlocked trial last year.

The motion says the broke ex-governor, whose legal bills are supposed to be paid by the government, wants to forego a retrial on grounds that none of his lawyers has been paid for months of pretrial preparations.

“Should this motion be granted … funds for the second trial would no longer be necessary,” the motion says. An added bonus, it continues, would be “no further cost to taxpayers.”

Blagojevich, 54, faces a maximum five-year prison term for the lying count. It was widely expected that a sentencing date for that conviction would be set only after the retrial was over.

At that trial do-over, currently scheduled to start on April 20, Blagojevich faces 20 charges, including that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat in exchange for a top job or campaign cash.

Many of the outstanding charges that would be the focus of a second trial, including fraud and attempted extortion, carry a far stiffer maximum sentence — 20 years in prison.

Messages left at the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago early Wednesday were not immediately returned.

Just minutes after jurors at the first trial declared they were hung on all but one count, prosecutors vowed to try the case again. Since then, they have given no hint that they would settle with the one conviction.

Wednesday’s motion claims that defense attorneys have gone almost nine months without pay and that the dearth of available funds undermines their ability to conduct investigations or seek expert opinions. As a result, it says, the defense won’t be fully prepared to go to trial on April 20.

“The financial hardship … has created a vast inequity,” the motion says. “The government continues to have every resource at its disposal. Yet, the defense is stymied in its ability to prepare for trial.”

A nearly $3 million fund that Blagojevich drew on at his first trial to pay his team of about a dozen attorneys ran dry as the initial trial finished. Months later, presiding Judge James Zagel ruled that Blagojevich would be allowed to retain only two lawyers and a paralegal on the taxpayers’ dime.


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