Former Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared “I feel great” and stopped to kiss the cheek of a supporter bearing a “Rod’s not cuckoo. Rod’s not guilty.” sign as he entered federal court in Chicago today for the first day of his corruption trial.
The Blago charges, regular readers will remember, stem from his alleged attempt to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s Senate seat in 2008, shaking down a children’s hospital, and other alleged schemes to profit from his office. He has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of bribery, wire fraud, racketeering, and attempted extortion.
Also on trial as a co-defendent is Blago’s brother, Robert.
Blago, who has been defiant since December 2008 when he was first arrested and berated by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in an epic press conference, said today before entering the courthouse: “The truth shall set you free.” He did not quote any verse.
The Chicago Tribune has an interesting look at Blago’s defense:
The strategy appears designed to play to widespread cynicism about government, likely shared by many in the prospective jury pool, by portraying the actions for which Blagojevich has been charged as nothing more than typical political horse trading. It also crafts an image of the former governor as an undisciplined motormouth — not a schemer — who blurts out whatever comes into his head without thinking about what it means or even intending to act on it.
Selling those notions to jurors will be crucial to the fate of Blagojevich because it’s rare for public officials to escape unscathed from federal corruption indictments in Chicago. The task gets even more difficult when the government evidence, as it does in the Blagojevich case, includes a trove of court-approved electronic eavesdropping.
Here’s the scene outside court today: