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23 Jun, 2010 22:42

Blagojevich saga continues as some pray he is innocent

The trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is now in full swing, though many in the court of public opinion have already convicted him.

Many think he is indeed guilty on charges of corruption, accused of trying to sell now President Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat. Since day one, Blagojevich has stood by his claim that he’s done nothing illegal.

How can you throw a governor out of office on a criminal complaint and you haven’t been able to show or prove any criminal activity?” he asked during a news conference.

Now in court, Blagojevich, a Serbian American, is fighting for his political future and his freedom.

One region following this story particularly closely is Chicago’s north side, where there is a significant Serbian population. Many people come to the Beograd café to discuss politics, sports and just about everything.

We think that they set him up, that’s what we think but we’ll see,” said Predrag Bogicevic, as he drank coffee and read the Serbian newspaper.

Dusko Pavlovic, the owner of Beograd café and restaurant, said he’s been serving the Blagojevich family for years.

Most people say, they don’t believe actually, that he is guilty,” Pavlovic said.

All of our community, our Serbian community, support with, we support with all our heart, we support Governor Blagojeviech,” said Luka Stojanovic.

Known to most in the United States as Rod, he is still Milorad (his given name) here. Although he was born in the US, those who share his Serbian heritage say his governorship was a source of pride. The Serbian community in the Chicago, about 300,000 people, a people who haven’t forgotten Blagojevich the hero – the man who, in 1999 flew to Yugoslavia to negotiate the release of three American prisoners of war, a man who has not changed his tune regarding his innocence.

The truth will come out and it will show that I’ve done nothing wrong and I’ve done a lot of things right for the people of Illinois,” Blagojevich said.

But it remains to be seen whether recently released FBI recorded phone conversations, which illustrate some shady financial dealings between Rod Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, will actually yield any evidence. As for those who share his heritage and his hometown…

People don’t believe before his judge say something different,” said Dusko Pavlovic

I hope he’s innocent.”

Luka Stojanovic echoed those sentiments: “If he’s guilty, he deserves to go to jail, but please God I think he’s not guilty.”Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen was in Chicago recently and said there are many who are still supporting Blagoevich, both democrats and republicans.

Many democrats and Republicans I spoke to think he got a raw deal. Where do you draw the line between corruption and hardball politics?” said Madsen.

He argued that the prosecution’s case has taken many hits, is playing a political game and that that the judge is corrupt.