CHICAGO — The same defendant. The same judge. The same courthouse. Even the same carefully coiffed hair.
Rod Blagojevich's second corruption trial begins today, starring many of the same figures as the first. But this retrial won't be just a rerun.
Prosecutors have streamlined their case against the disgraced former Illinois governor, dropping some of the most complex charges to address complaints by the previous jury that the evidence was too hard to follow.
Blagojevich, now 54, returns with a scaled-down, more bookish defense team that no longer includes lead lawyer Sam Adam Jr., whose courtroom theatrics in round one often drew the judge's ire. And this time, Blagojevich will be the lone defendant after authorities dropped all charges against his brother.
Like a second-night Broadway performance, the actors presumably come in with many missteps and miscues corrected. "Everyone improves," said Blagojevich attorney Aaron Goldstein.
Surprises are also possible.
For prosecutors, it could be seeking testimony from Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel. For the defense, it could be putting their client on the stand. In the last trial, Blagojevich repeatedly promised to testify, then didn't.
Speaking at his Chicago home over the weekend, Blagojevich said that he both looked forward to the retrial and dreaded it.
"To have to sit through that and hear all that again … it's brutal, brutal," he said.
He could get up to five years in prison for lying to the FBI, the sole count on which he was convicted last year. He faces 20 more counts in the retrial, including bribery and fraud.
Last year, a single juror who refused to go along with the rest of the panel was all that kept Blagojevich from being convicted on the most serious charge, that he tried to sell or trade Barack Obama's old Senate seat.
Other charges include alleged shakedowns of a children's hospital, a racetrack owner, a construction executive and then-Rep. Emanuel.