Former Illinois governor Blagojevich asks US Supreme Court to delay corruption trial, prosecutors to respond by Friday

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rod Blagojevich.
Image: United States Congress.

US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has given federal prosecutors until next Friday to respond to the request of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and his brother Robert to delay their corruption trial. 

The trial is set to begin on June 3, and many of the charges they face are based on a federal honest-services law. The Blagojevich brothers challenge the constitutionality of this law and believe the trial should be delayed until the high court is expected to decide the issue next month. The request had already been denied by District Judge James Zagel and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Stevens, who handles appeals from the Seventh Circuit, had three options: reject the request for a delay of trial, grant it, or allow the federal government to respond. He chose the third. 

The decision brings hope to the Blagojevich defense team. "We believe that means he sees this as not frivolous, and he's going to decide it on the merits," said Michael Ettinger, Robert's attorney. "We're somewhat cautiously hopeful he'll do the right thing."

Prosecutors added new charges, including bribery, against the brothers in case the Supreme Court finds the honest-services law unconstitutional. They believe the June 3 start date should not be held back.