Blagojevich's attorneys ask for mistrial

By MICHAEL TARM | May 23, 2011 | 1:58 PM EDT

CHICAGO (AP) — Rod Blagojevich's defense attorneys asked a federal judge for a mistrial on Monday, arguing that prosecutors failed to prove corruption allegations against the ousted Illinois governor.

Prosecutors rested their three-week-long case against Blagojevich last week, and defense attorneys are expected to put on their own case when the retrial reconvenes Wednesday. Blagojevich's attorneys requested the mistrial in a Monday filing with U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The mistrial motion cites the inability of the defense "to ask any meaningful questions" in cross-examination. Prosecutors objected to questions from the defense more than a hundred times during the cross-examination of some government witnesses.

The judge is meeting with defense attorneys Monday to discuss instructions for jurors when deliberate in coming days and could possibly address the mistrial motion.

Blagojevich faces 20 charges, including trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat for a high-profile job or campaign cash. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The former governor's attorneys have said they will call prominent people to testify in Blagojevich's defense, a remark that set off a guessing game over who will take the stand. Among the possibilities are Blagojevich himself, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Emanuel declined to say Monday if he was going to testify, only that he's ready to do so.

"I'm ready, if asked, to answer questions as I was in the first trial and this trial I'll answer questions if I'm asked to," Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference in downtown Chicago.

One of the allegations against Blagojevich is that he wanted to withhold a $2 million grant for a school in Emanuel's Chicago district when Emanuel was in Congress, unless Emanuel's Hollywood-agent brother held a fundraiser for Blagojevich.

The school eventually got its money and no fundraiser was held. Emanuel didn't testify at Blagojevich's first trial and hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing.

Blagojevich's attorneys at the first trial did not present a defense. Jurors in that trial could agree on only one count, convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.


AP writer Don Babwin contributed to this report.