Blagojevich Pleads Not Guilty

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives at federal court for is arraignment on federal racketeering and fraud charges in Chicago, Tuesday, April 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges Tuesday, officially denying allegations including that he tried to sell President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Blagojevich, 52, looked relaxed as he stood alongside his brother, Robert Blagojevich, 53, who also pleaded not guilty in the scheme.

The former governor did not make a statement before the plea but told reporters and spectators when he entered the courthouse that he was "innocent of every single accusation.

"I'm glad that this day has started, because now we can begin the process of getting the truth out, and I can clear my name and vindicate myself," Blagojevich said. "I have great respect for the court system, and we're going to deal with this in the court system."

The former governor is charged with trying to auction off the Senate seat, planning to squeeze money from companies seeking state business and plotting to use the financial muscle of the governor's office to pressure the Chicago Tribune newspaper to fire editorial writers who had called for his impeachment.

[You can read the full federal indictment here. (pdf)]

Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky, a longtime Blagojevich friend, entered the plea on his client's behalf before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel. Zagel then asked Blagojevich if he was pleading not guilty to all counts, including charges of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, attempted extortion, extortion conspiracy and making false statements.

"That's correct," the impeached former chief executive responded.

Other attorneys have been reluctant to file an appearance with the court on behalf of the governor because it could lock them into a case that could consume thousands of hours over the next two years without any guarantee they would be paid.

No big names among Chicago's criminal defense lawyers are offering free services to Blagojevich.

Blagojevich does have money in his Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund. But prosecutors have put defense attorneys on notice they will ask Zagel to order the campaign money forfeited if Blagojevich is convicted. Attorneys could be ordered to return their fees if they were paid from the campaign fund.

Of the other defendants in the case, former chief fundraiser Christopher G. Kelly; former aide John Harris; and Springfield millionaire William Cellini are to be arraigned Thursday. Former aide Alonzo Monk is to be arraigned next week.

Harris, a former Blagojevich chief of staff, is cooperating with the federal investigation. Monk, also a former chief of staff and campaign manager, is reported to be cooperating with the investigation as well.


To watch CBS Station WBBM video of Blagojevich entering the courthouse, as well as commentary by legal expert Irv Miller, click on the video player below.

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