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A federal judge on Thursday set a June 3, 2010, start date for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's trial on charges of scheming to sell or trade President Obama's U.S. Senate seat and pressure potential campaign contributors.
And there were indications Thursday that, in addition to millions of pages of documents and hours of FBI wiretap tapes, Blagojevich also may have to deal with witness testimony from his former top aides.
Alonzo Monk and John Harris, both of whom served as chief of staff under Blagojevich, both have pleaded not guilty to scheming to use the political muscle of the governor's office to pressure people for campaign contributions. But Monk's attorneys said in court papers he plans to change his plea on July 21, and Harris' attorney, Terry A. Ekl, told reporters his client may change his plea at a hearing scheduled for July 8.
Harris had been cooperating with prosecutors and published reports said Monk was also cooperating.
Defense attorneys said that despite the voluminous text and electronic evidence that remains to be read and heard, they would be ready when the curtain goes up almost a year from now on the second spectacular corruption trial of a former Illinois governor in five years.
"We have the best judge in the entire system. Everyone has always told me that, and if he says to be ready by June 3, we'll be ready by June 3," Blagojevich's most outspoken defense counsel, Samuel E. Adam, told reporters about U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel.
Blagojevich is charged with racketeering conspiracy and other offenses. Prosecutors say he schemed to exchange Obama's former Senate seat for campaign money, a seat in the Obama Cabinet or a lucrative job for himself or his wife.
They say he also illegally plotted to pressure various people, including a racetrack owner, a hospital administrator and even White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, for contributions to the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund.
Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty.
Adam said team Blagojevich also is ready to cope with high-profile witnesses.
"You can bring in Lon Monk. You can bring in anybody you want. Rod Blagojevich didn't do anything wrong," Adam said after Thursday's hearing.