Blagojevich's brother pleads not guilty
Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's businessman brother pleaded not guilty to revised corruption charges on Thursday, and later said he's in the battle of his life and that the case has harmed his relationship with his brother.
"It's not what it was, it's strained, but we're going to get through it," Robert Blagojevich told reporters after the brief arraignment hearing.
He said he was prepared for a tough fight at his trial, which is set to get under way June 3 before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel.
"This is the battle of my life and I'm prepared to confront it," the Nashville, Tenn., businessman said.
His attorney, Michael Ettinger, told reporters he is thinking of filing a motion to have his client tried separately from the impeached former governor.
Robert Blagojevich is the only co-defendant due to stand trial with his brother.
Springfield millionaire-lobbyist William Cellini has had his case severed from the former governor's. Two former chiefs of staff, John Harris and Alonzo "Lon" Monk, were charged in the original indictment but have pleaded guilty and are expected to testify as government witnesses. And fundraiser Chris Kelly committed suicide.
Ettinger stressed that while the charges against Rod Blagojevich cover six years of alleged misconduct, the charges against his client relate to only four months in late 2008, when Robert Blagojevich oversaw his brother's campaign fund. He said the charges against Robert Blagojevich have nothing to do with his brother's ties to Tony Rezko, a convicted influence peddler, and Stuart Levine, an admitted fixer.
Both Blagojevich brothers were named in a revised indictment last week that added eight charges but did not include any alleged misconduct that wasn't found in the previous version. The reason for revising the charges has to do with a law making it illegal for officials to deny taxpayers their honest services.
Critics say the law is too vague and the U.S. Supreme Court is now reviewing it. Prosecutors are concerned lest the high court limit the honest services law to the point that it would be useless for trying the Blagojevich brothers.
The charges added in the latest version have nothing to do with honest services. Robert Blagojevich is accused in only three of those charges -- attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery conspiracy.
All three focus on the alleged scheme to sell or trade Obama's Senate seat in exchange for money or a lucrative job for brother Rod once he left office.