Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Too speedy a trial for Blagojevich?

Prosecutors who are trying to get a conviction against now-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich have indicated they may be done presenting their case sometime this week – a fact that has many people shocked.

This was, after all, the trial that was supposed to run from early June until some time into October – maybe even late into October. Now, it’s looking like the case that could be done by Labor Day.

EVEN BLAGOJEVICH HIMSELF seems to be concerned. His attorneys filed a motion Tuesday, asking U.S. District Judge James Zagel to impose about a week-long delay in the trial once the prosecution completes its portion. The judge ultimately granted the motion, when prosecutors completed presenting their case Tuesday afternoon.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the attorneys themselves said they did not expect to be presenting their defense of Milorod until some time late in August. Instead, we’re now in mid-July. In short, they’re not ready.

The political people they plan to drag into court to harass and humiliate (then try to claim their behavior as evidence that Blagojevich didn’t do anything illegal) may not be available if they are rushed into action beginning the end of this week.

It was because of that factor that Zagel continued the Blagojevich trial until Monday. Not that those few days of delay will matter much. This is a trial that will end long before it was originally anticipated to.

YET BLAGOJEVICH CAN’T be the only person concerned about this faster schedule. Like I noted earlier, this was supposed to be the case that ran through the summer and fall. It was supposed to bury us with so much detail that we couldn’t help but think that Blagojevich was guilty of something.

Instead, we have some legal observers who seriously speculate that all the prosecution has proven is that Blagojevich himself is little more than a cretin. Some argue that the actual behavior of Blagojevich isn’t criminal.

Others, however, argue that it is – and that ultimately is something for the jurors to decide.

The people who might be most concerned, however, are the Republican partisans. They were the ones who were supposed to gain the most from all the mass of detail coming from the Dirksen Building courthouse. They were the ones hoping/wishing/praying for a “guilty” verdict just a couple of days from Election Day.

THE REALITY OF political campaigns is that while they start the day after the February primary elections, most people don’t pay much attention. If they listen at all to the campaign rhetoric taking place now, many dismiss it as the release of hot air by a batch of political gas-bags.

Labor Day is the time of the year when people whose ideological beliefs aren’t so intense that they have an automatic reaction that causes them to vote the way they do, actually start to pay attention and try to process the rhetoric and facts coming forth – and try to make a decision about who to cast a ballot for come Nov. 2.

Republican partisans were counting on the fact that the months of September and October would be filled with news reports giving us the latest “dirty dish from the Dirksen” about what kind of scummy person Rod Blagojevich supposedly is.

They were also hoping that, because the case would have been in the defense stage by then, Blagojevich would make good on his pre-trial promises to drag many of his Democratic allies into court and make them look guilty by association, or just downright ridiculous, with their behavior on the stand.

REPUBLICANS WOULD HAVE given us the argument that it is guilt for Illinois’ political establishment, and that it warrants a change.

I fully expect they will still make that argument. But if this trial really does go into a defense mode this week, Blagojevich could be finished with presenting his case by early August. That would mean jurors spending a portion of that summer month locked away in a jury room, before reaching their decision.

I could easily envision those jurors using the Labor Day holiday weekend (or, if you live in Naperville, the Last Fling) to celebrate the end of their public service that entailed having to learn way more about Rod Blagojevich than they ever would have wanted to know.

Did the prosecutors do the Democratic Party establishment in this state an inadvertent favor by being so efficient timewise in presenting their case?

BECAUSE IF THIS trial really is over by the time the serious hard-core campaigning takes place, it won’t be fresh material popping up in the news reports, free of charge to the Republican candidates, that they can just sit back and react to.

Not that I expect people to have forgotten about Blagojevich and his criminal trial completely by autumn. But it will take on a sense in many peoples’ minds of being ancient history, something that we need to move on from.

Would that make Republican candidates look cheap and tacky for appearing to be anxious to dredge in the muck of something that is over and done with?

It might just cost Republican candidates a few votes come November. And with this election cycle being as off-beat as it has become, those few votes could wind up saving the political hide of at least a few Democratic officials.


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