Blagojevich says prosecutors thwarting his corruption defense

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2011 8:07 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich criticized prosecutors on Wednesday for trying to bar his lawyers from telling jurors that wiretaps admitted as evidence against him represent only a fraction of secret recordings made on the eve of his 2008 arrest.

Blagojevich faces a second trial next week on corruption charges.

In a five-minute appeal delivered in front of his northside home and carried live on local news, Blagojevich said prosecutors were sabotaging his efforts to defend himself by blocking his attorneys from informing jurors of the hours and hours of FBI tapes not admitted as evidence by the court.

Prosecutors argue that allowing the defense to talk about tapes the judge has excluded as if they have been maliciously withheld by the government only serves to mislead jurors.

Blagojevich and his attorneys disagree and insist he is being denied a fair trial.

"I have been falsely accused," Blagojevich said. "The truth will set me free. I believe that. In fact, I know that. The question is, can we get the truth out?"

The two-term Democrat was ousted from office by the Illinois legislature in early 2009 for malfeasance.

Last August at his first trial he was found guilty of lying to investigators. But the jury could not reach a verdict on 23 other counts -- reportedly due to a single holdout juror.

Judge James Zagel of the District Court declared a mistrial on the remaining counts. Chicago's Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald promptly declared his office would re-try Blagojevich. Zagel will again preside.

As Blagojevich heads into a second trail, he faces 20 charges, including one that he attempted to sell President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

Blagojevich's five-minute appeal drew dozens of reporters and onlookers to the city's Ravenswood neighborhood, including several who seemed to side with the former governor.

"He's a local guy who's getting screwed over," said Brian Dolan, a 55-year-old neighbor of Blagojevich's. "He's just a regular guy, not some blue-blood, rich guy. I think he's innocent."

(Reporting by Eric Johnson and Andy Stern; writing by James B. Kelleher)