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Largest Cost of Retrial: Defending Blagojevich

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Largest Cost of Retrial: Defending Blagojevich
Jack Higgins
Largest Cost of Retrial: Defending Blagojevich

NBC

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Within moments of Judge James Zagel declaring a mistrial in the 23 counts against former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, the government wasted no time in promising to try again.

But in a huffing and puffing response, defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. questioned prosecution's immediate edict and threw out figures that surely made many taxpayers wince.

“I wish everyone here in this group would go upstairs and ask Mr. Fitzgerald why are we spending $25 million to $30 million on a retrial when you couldn’t prove it the first time?" Adam challenged.  "Is this worth it? That’s what I have to ask the people of Illinois: Is this worth it?"

Former federal prosecutor John Gallo said Wednesday that the prosecution's costs would actually be much lower, probably less than a million dollars.

"The prosecutors' salaries -- let's say they're $100,000 each -- so their  time, associated with prosecuting this case in lieu of another case is, at most, a low six-figure number," said Gallo.  "It's the opportunity cost of having them do something else."

The real cost would come from defending Blagojevich, who for all intents and purposes, is broke.  His campaign chest was exhausted in the days leading up to Tuesday's verdict.

Blagojevich is entitled to a public defense, and the hourly rate -- $110 per hour -- could quickly add up.  It's estimated that when law firm Winston and Strawn defended former Gov. George Ryan, it cost the firm between $10 and $20 million, though that figure was based on their rates.  The firm did the work pro bono.

Adam's second question as to whether the trial is "worth it," is more subjective.

While many Illinoisans questioned Wednesday said there were more important issues on which to spend public money, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune both chimed in with editorials on the retrial.  To summarize them:  Bring it on.

Related Topics Rod Blagojevich
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