The new corruption trial against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich launches Wednesday, to cast final judgement about whether he attempted to sell the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated to become president, among other corruption charges.
In a surprise revelation, newly inaugurated Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) are both expected to testify in the opening today, an anonymous source told the Associated Press.
Last summer, in his first corruption trial, Blagojevich was convicted of only one of the 24 charges against him — lying to the FBI. The jury was deadlocked on the other 23, 20 of which will be examined again in the retrial starting today. In March, Blagojevich asked for the retrial to be canceled in order to save the taxpayer money being used for his defense, but his plea was denied.
According to the AP’s source, Blagojevich’s defense hopes that Emanuel and Jackson may be able to affirm that the disgraced former governor’s conversations about trading or selling the Senate seat are part of a behind-the-scenes give and take that fuels all government.
However, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, Phil Turner, said that the star witnesses may end up backfiring on Blagojevich.
“All these witnesses can end up hurting you far more than they can help,” Turner told the AP. “They’re land mines. You’ve got to be really, really careful.”
“You put (Emanuel or Jackson) on and you ask a question hoping for a certain answer, and they say something completely unexpected,” he said. “That’s a disaster. You’re standing there in front of the jury with your pants down. “
Blagojevich already has a five-year sentence on his previous conviction, and if convicted on all 20 counts in the retrial, could face a maximum of 350 years in prison.