Blagojevich sentencing could face delays
BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter email@example.com September 7, 2011 8:12PM
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives at the federal courthouse for a hearing in Chicago, Friday, July 15, 2011. It is Blagojevich's first time in court since a jury convicted him of multiple corruption counts last month. Judge James Zagel warned Blagojevich that he could lose his Chicago home and a condo in Washington if he tried to flee or otherwise violated his bond terms. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: November 26, 2011 12:28AM
Rod Blagojevich may have to wait for his day of reckoning.
As it now stands, the former governor’s scheduled sentencing date next month directly conflicts with a trial in a related case.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel set Blagojevich’s sentencing for Oct. 6. However, on Oct. 3, the trial of Springfield power broker William Cellini — which entails allegations involving Blagojevich fund-raisers — is scheduled to start before the same judge and some of the same prosecutors.
While Cellini attorney Dan Webb said Wednesday he believes his client’s trial date isn’t going to move, Blagojevich lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said he wouldn’t be surprised if his client’s sentencing does.
“Obviously, history would indicate that a judge who’s in the middle of a trial is not going to delay the trial for a sentencing,” Sorosky said.
Unless something changes, Zagel would be in the unlikely position of picking a jury for Cellini’s trial, then pausing the proceedings to begin what’s expected to be a highly-publicized, lengthy sentencing of Blagojevich.
“I have every reason to believe the trial is going forward on Oct. 3,” Webb said.
Meanwhile, documents filed by prosecutors outlining their case against Cellini hint that prosecutors have maintained their distance from convicted businessman Tony Rezko — even though Rezko has in the past offered to testify.
The same documents do show prosecutors will rely on recordings of Cellini as well as the testimony of convicted businessman Stuart Levine, whom they refer to as a “close ally” of Cellini. Cellini is accused of conspiring with others to extort a campaign contribution for Blagojevich from Capri Capital’s Tom Rosenberg, who is also a Hollywood film producer. Webb said the prosecution’s case rests on the allegation that Cellini worked to extort Rosenberg.
“Rosenberg has admitted under oath in the Rezko trial that Cellini never asked him to make a campaign contribution, never once,” Webb said. “These filings did not change my view of that.”
Rosenberg testified in the Rezko trial that he grew angry in a conversation with Cellini after he said Cellini told him Rezko and fund-raiser Chris Kelly were upset that Rosenberg made millions of dollars with the state but failed to pony up to Blagojevich’s political fund.
In filings, prosecutors say Levine is expected to testify to various statements; they don’t attribute possible testimony to Rezko.
In court on Wednesday, a federal judge held firm an Oct. 21 Rezko sentencing date even though prosecutors asked for the date to be moved until after the Cellini trial. They didn’t say why, but the same prosecution team is working on both trials.
Rezko lawyer William Ziegelmueller said he opposed the date being moved again.
Levine was the star witness in Rezko’s 2008 corruption trial. Levine, who admitted to decades of swindling people, withstood a blistering cross-examination by defense lawyers.
On Wednesday, Levine’s lawyer said his client is prepared to again take the stand.
“He’s worked extremely hard to rehabilitate himself during this whole process,” said attorney Jeffrey Steinback. “He’s found the entire process incredibly humbling.”
Said Webb: “I plan to be ready to cross-examine Mr. Levine.”