Blagojevich Bid to Delay Corruption Trial Is Rejected by Justice Stevens

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens denied a request by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to delay his June 3 corruption trial.

Blagojevich had sought a delay until the high court ruled on unrelated cases challenging the federal honest-services fraud law. The justice’s ruling was announced by the court’s public information office. No written decision was issued.

Blagojevich defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky didn’t immediately return a voicemail message seeking comment.

A twice-elected Democrat, Blagojevich, 53, faces a 24-count criminal indictment that includes charges of racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion and extortion conspiracy, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

He was arrested in December 2008 on charges he tried to trade his right to appoint a U.S. senator to replace then- President-elect Barack Obama for campaign contributions or personal favors.

Blagojevich has denied the allegations and said he is innocent. Several of the charges against him rely upon a federal law criminalizing the deprivation of one’s intangible right to the honest services of public officials and corporate officers.

The law is being challenged as unconstitutionally vague in a Supreme Court appeal by former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling. The court is also considering honest- services cases involving former Hollinger International Inc. Chairman Conrad Black and former Alaska legislator Bruce Weyhrauch.

‘Unreasonable March’

Prior defense requests for a postponement were denied by U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel in Chicago and a federal appeals court.

Lawyers for Blagojevich, in a May 20 filing with Stevens, said he couldn’t be tried fairly if some of the charges against him are constitutionally invalid.

“The unreasonable march toward trial in this case has created an array of constitutional violations and has set the stage for a constitutionally infirm trial,” Blagojevich’s lawyers said in their filing last week.

Prosecutors earlier today countered that the factual allegations underlying those counts in the indictment that don’t rely on the honest services law are the same as those charges that do, and that invalidation of the statute won’t alter their case against him.

The case is being prosecuted by the office of Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. His spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment on Stevens’ decision.

The Supreme Court case is Blagojevich v. United States, 09A1121. The criminal case is U.S. v. Blagojevich, 08cr888, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew M. Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net; Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net.

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