First witness testifies in Blagojevich trial

By Hannah Hess

Shortly before 3 p.m. today in Springfield, opening statements began in the impeachment trial of Gov. Rob Blagojevich.

In the absence of Blagojevich, Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald delivered the governor’s non-guilty plea to the Illinois State Senate.

Head prosecutor David Ellis used his opening statement to stress the fact that the impeachment was meant to “protect citizens of Illinois from the abuses of an elected official.”

To win his case, Ellis and the other House prosecutors will have to convince at least 40 state senators to convict the governor on impeachment charges.

Senator Dan Rutherford, a Republican representing district 53, said that he had not yet decided how he would be voting.

“Public opinion polls show lower numbers, but as a State Senator upholding the law of the constitution I’m going to make a decision based on evidence, not poll numbers,” Rutherford said.

To enhance the amount of evidence offered during the trial, Senators voted today to grant approval to testimony from FBI Special Agent Daniel Cane. Cane led the investigation into the governor’s actions and signed the 78-page affidavit regarding the criminal arrest of Blagojevich.

Cane is expected to testify later this week.

The trial’s first witness, former Assistant U.S. Attorney John Scully, took the stand shortly after opening statements today. Scully, who was called for his expertise in wiretapping, explained the amount of scrutiny applied to a piece of wiretapped information before it could be considered credible evidence.

The trial is expected to continue all week.

Matt Mershon contributed to this report from Springfield, Ill.

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