Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Fatigue is replacing fascination, at least for some of us, when it comes to today’s opening of Rod Blagojevich’s retrial.
Some portion of the population believes our former governor, already convicted of one felony count, should just be marched off to prison. Given that he’s already been impeached, removed from office, and is flat-busted broke, to them that seems like plenty of punishment already.
It would spare taxpayers the burden of footing the bill for the retrial. And spare us the daily spectacle of a chattering Elvis-like populist in a $2,000 suit marching in and out of the federal building playing to the cameras.
Reasonable as it seems, it’s just not going to happen. And two distinct camps are glad of it.
In one camp are those who cling to the belief that Blagojevich is an innocent man railroaded by a craven, relentless prosecution. They foresee his vindication in this second trial.
In the other camp is a prosecution which believes that Blagojevich’s lone felony conviction for lying to the FBI is not substantive enough to justify closing this case. Or significant enough to declare victory. Or, as feds like to say, strong enough to “send a message.”
Robert Blagojevich, the ex-governor’s brother, is in the camp that argues his brother is innocent.
“My brother’s a fighter, and every signal I get from him is that he is prepared to defend himself vigorously,” he told me last week as we sat in his Nashville, Tenn., home.
Robert was the sympathetic Blagojevich in the first trial, taking the stand in his own defense.
When the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the four charges against him, the government dropped him from the case. Prosecutors explained they did so “in the interest of justice” and given the “disparity” of the two brothers’ roles, something they apparently failed to give much weight to the first time around.
For the feds to dismiss a co-defendant is considered extraordinary.
To dismiss the most serious of the charges against the ex-governor, the racketeering counts, is more extraordinary still.
But that’s what the prosecution is doing in this retrial.
All of which makes the case against Rod Blagojevich this time around cleaner, clearer, and arguably more palatable for the next jury.
As for the defense, their team is far leaner.
And a lot less flamboyant minus the Adam family attorneys, Sam Sr. and Sam Jr., who have both their fans and their detractors.
Len Cavise, professor of law at DePaul, argues they didn’t “know a hearsay objection from a delicatessen” in the first trial. And this time around, Cavis said, the defense will need to conduct more “evidentiary battles vs. side shows.”
As for Blagojevich, the big question is whether he will mount a defense and/or finally take the stand himself.
Cavise argues that presenting some defense witnesses would be helpful, people who can testify that Rod Blagojevich had an unfiltered mouth, wild ideas, and that nobody ever took him seriously. In short, the buffoon defense.
But Cavise argues strenuously that the buffoon himself should never take the stand. That could open the way for the government to come back with Tony Rezko, the governor’s former pal and imprisoned powerbroker.
“And Blagojevich,” says Cavise, “would be toast.”
It is the jury, however, that is on everyone’s mind.
Their fatigue or fascination with this case is what will really matter.