Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=126499
Story Retrieval Date: 5/18/2013 5:51:26 PM CST
Impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich won’t be traveling to Costa Rica to appear on a reality show this summer, after a federal judge denied bond changes on Tuesday that would have allowed him to leave the United States.
After the hearing, Blagojevich, who was scheduled to appear on NBC’s show “I’m a Celebrity…Get me Out of Here!” treated dozens of curious onlookers to his own version of a reality show as he played to cameras and greeted several Chicagoans outside the Dirksen Courthouse.
“I didn’t let you down,” he told one woman as he shook her hand.
He motioned to another passerby to join him on camera. “Want to get on TV? Come on in,” he said.
Although Blagojevich’s attorney, Sheldon Serosky, argued that NBC would pay for additional security details and the former governor would leverage his home as part of bail, U.S. District Judge James Zagel doubted Blagojevich’s understanding of his dire position.
“It’s a bad idea to modify bond conditions at this time,” Zagel said. “I have a degree of sympathy for the financial aspect.”
However, Zagel said, “I do not have confidence that things will not go astray.”
Zagel added that only when Blagojevich can sit in a room and read the thousands of sheets of paper collected in the discovery stage of the trial will he be able to understand the gravity of his situation.
Responding to criticisms that Blagojevich has focused more on compensation negotiations with NBC than on developing a team of lawyers to defend him, Serosky said the court was responsible for preventing the progression of the defense by freezing Blagojevich’s assets.
“Mr. Blagojevich would not delay the preparation of the defense,” Serosky said. “It’s an extremely complex case. We need five or six experienced attorneys to defend this case.”
Though he ruled against allowing Blagojevich to travel to Costa Rica, Zagel said he would consider allowing Blagojevich to use his $2 million campaign war chest to pay for legal fees.
“In major trials, a significant portion of fees is paid out of the public treasury,” Zagel said. “If it is true that he is indigent or close to indigent, it will be the taxpayers that pay.”
When asked whether his client was in fact penniless, Serosky replied: “It shows he is an honest man.”
A hearing is set for May 1 to decide whether Blagojevich can use his campaign money to fund his defense.