A federal judge on Thursday set a June 3, 2010, start date for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's trial on charges of scheming to sell or trade President Obama's U.S. Senate seat and pressure potential campaign contributors.
Defense attorneys said that despite millions of pages of documents still to be read and hours of FBI wiretap tapes still to be heard, they would be ready when the curtain goes up almost a year from now on the second spectacular corruption trial in five years of a former Illinois governor.
"We have the best judge in the entire system -- everyone has always told me that -- and if he says to be ready by June 3 we'll be ready by June 3," Blagojevich's most outspoken defense counsel, Samuel E. Adam, told reporters about U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel.
Blagojevich is charged with racketeering conspiracy and other offenses. Prosecutors say he schemed to exchange Obama's former Senate seat for campaign money, a seat in the Obama Cabinet or a lucrative job for himself or his wife.
They say he also illegally plotted to pressure various people -- a racetrack owner, a hospital administrator and even White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel -- for contributions to the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund.
Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty.
Defense attorneys said they are expecting testimony at the trial against their client from two former Blagojevich chiefs of staff who are facing charges of their own in the case, Alonzo Monk and John Harris.
Monk's attorneys filed notice Wednesday that he intends to change his not guilty plea within the next month and Harris's lawyer said he might do so too.
But Adam said team Blagojevich was ready to cope with those witnesses.
"You can bring in Lon Monk, you can bring in anybody you want -- Rod Blagojevich didn't do anything wrong," Adam said after Thursday's hearing.
Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky said he was aware of subpoenas served on state universities following Chicago Tribune reports that Blagojevich may have used clout to get favored candidates admitted to the University of Illinois.
In answer to a question, though, Sorosky said that after reading about the subpoenas it still hadn't occurred to him that fresh charges might be coming.
Adam, Sorosky and the other defense lawyers also introduced their staff of young so-called contract lawyers who are doing the legal grunt work of plowing through every word of three and a half million pages of documents and listening to hours of wiretap tapes of the former governor.
One by one the contract lawyers, who don't figure to be on hand when the trial starts, trouped to the bench and told Zagel that they had read and understood the protective order he issued in the case.
The order makes it illegal to divulge the contents of the documents or the tapes to the public or the news media.