Blago Heads to Court for New Charges

New indictment came down last week

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Rod Blagojevich heads to court Wednesday to answer a revised batch of charges that he schemed to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old Senate seat and swap official favors for campaign money.

    Federal marshals blocked off the courthouse sidewalk to give Blagojevich a clear path to and from his car and avoid the swirling media frenzy that surrounded him when he appeared in court several months ago.

    Curiosity about the brash former governor, who has been pleading his case on radio and television for months, is guaranteed to draw heavy press attention and marshals have pledged to maintain strict order.

    Blagojevich has grabbed at almost every chance to get on the air. Many attorneys have said it is unwise to talk so freely with federal charges pending. They say the 53-year-old impeached former governor's words could be used against him at the trial, which is scheduled to begin June 3.

    The arraignment Wednesday is likely to be brief.

    "He's going to be there, so its going to be a big press hoopla, but legally it's going to be very routine — he's going to plead not guilty," Blagojevich defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky said Tuesday night.

    Blagojevich's businessman brother, Robert, who was the head of his campaign fund and also was charged in the indictment, is to be arraigned later. He had been set for arraignment Wednesday but asked to have his appearance rescheduled.

    The new indictment alleges Rod Blagojevich sought ways to get lucrative jobs or money in exchange for the seat left vacant by Obama's election — just as the previous version did — but makes no new allegations of misconduct.

    The new indictment repeats all of the charges against Blagojevich in the earlier version but adds eight new ones — one count of racketeering, two counts of attempted extortion, two counts of bribery, two counts of bribery conspiracy and one count of extortion conspiracy.

    The new charges are an attempt by prosecutors to ensure that a legal challenge now before the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't delay Blagojevich's trial. The dispute is over a federal law that allows charges of denying taxpayers the right to "honest services." The charge appears throughout the previous indictment against Blagojevich.