Blagojevich pleads not guilty
April 15, 2009
MIKE ROBINSON AP Legal Affairs Writer CHICAGO
Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's not guilty plea to racketeering and fraud charges has begun a sequence of legal maneuvers that attorneys say will likely lead to a trial a year or two down the road, a journey he must undertake with questions surrounding his ability to pay for his own defense. "It's the end of the beginning in one respect but it's the beginning of another aspect" of the case, the impeached former governor said to a media throng after he and his brother, Robert, were arraigned Tuesday on charges that include an alleged scheme to sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. "That is the beginning of me being able to prove and clear my name and be vindicated of what are inaccurate allegations." Blagojevich appeared to be in his element as he chatted amiably with reporters. An attorney close to his legal defense said Blagojevich even wants U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel's permission to leave the country to appear on a reality TV show that could be taped in June. The attorney spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the plan is confidential. Blagojevich, 52, is charged with scheming to auction off the Senate seat, attempting to extort campaign money from companies seeking state business 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. He was arrested Dec. 9 after authorities said he was heard on FBI wiretaps discussing swapping the Obama seat for a Cabinet post, a new job or campaign money. A federal grand jury returned a 19-count indictment April 2 that alleges corruption beginning before Blagojevich even took office. At the 10-minute arraignme n t , Bl a g o j ev i c h a n d Sorosky, a longtime friend and the only attorney currently on the case, entered the not guilty plea.