Stevens denies Blagojevich request to delay corruption trial
WASHINGTON – WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday refused to delay ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's trial on corruption charges, set to begin next week.
Justice John Paul Stevens rejected Blagojevich's request without comment. His decision came shortly after the Obama administration told the high court that it opposed Blagojevich's request.
The former governor's trial is scheduled to begin on Thursday.
In Chicago, Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said after hearing about the decision that the former governor's legal team was ready for the trial to get under way.
"We didn't prepare presuming that the Supreme Court would rule in our favor — we prepared for the worst," Sheldon Sorosky said. "The Supreme Court has ruled and that's that."
Blagojevich had asked the high court to delay his trial until the justices rule first in pending cases about the constitutionality of the federal honest-services fraud law. Prosecutors have charged Blagojevich with violating the fraud law and other crimes.
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said the evidence on the honest services charges "is the same as that underlying the bribery, extortion, and racketeering counts." That means the flow of the trial won't be affected by what the Supreme Court says about the honest services charges, Katyal said in court papers.
Also, the trial judge has told lawyers on both sides in the Blagojevich case not to use the words "honest services" in their opening statements, Katyal said.
"Accordingly, a stay of the district court's discretionary decision to proceed with the trial is not warranted," Katyal said.
Blagojevich will be tried with his brother, Nashville businessman Robert Blagojevich, in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to charges that accuse him of scheming to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to illegally pressuring potential campaign contributors for money.
The honest services fraud law has been described by critics as so vague that a federal prosecutor could label all sorts of activities criminal. Justice Antonin Scalia once said it was so vague a mayor could be charged for using influence to get a good table at a restaurant.
AP legal affairs writer Mike Robinson in Chicago contributed to this report.