Judge nixes Blago's reality TV dream

April 21, 2009 1:41:52 PM PDT
A federal judge dashed indicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's reality TV dream Tuesday, refusing to give the ousted Democrat permission to travel to Costa Rica to tape a show in the jungle. U.S. District Judge James Zagel refused to modify terms of Blagojevich's bail to allow him to leave the United States, saying he needs to remain in the country to help his attorneys formulate a strategy for his defense. The judge did not immediately rule on a more pressing matter for his defense - whether the ex-governor can tap his $2 million campaign fund to pay his attorneys. Zagel is expected to issue a decision at a later date. Blagojevich, 52, is charged with scheming to auction off President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, attempting to extort campaign money from companies seeking state business and plotting to use the governor's office to pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers who called for his impeachment. The accusations led to his ouster as governor, but he has pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied any wrongdoing. Blagojevich had sought permission to appear on the NBC reality show "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!" - a program similar to "Survivor." Contestants will be plopped down in the Costa Rican jungle to perform sweaty physical tasks and scheme to avoid elimination. It was just the latest spotlight-seeking move from Blagojevich. Since his arrest, he has announced a deal to write a book, hosted a Chicago radio talk show and made the New York talk show circuit, chatting it up with everyone from David Letterman to the women of "The View." Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 after, authorities said, he was heard on FBI wiretaps discussing swapping the Obama seat for a Cabinet post, a new job or campaign money. Illinois lawmakers impeached him and booted him from office in January. A federal grand jury returned a 19-count indictment April 2 that accuses him and five others of corruption beginning before Blagojevich even took office. Blagojevich faces charges including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion, and making false statements. Most of the charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Attorney Sheldon Sorosky, a longtime friend and currently Blagojevich's one-man defense team, has said he is seeking prosecutors' permission to tap Blagojevich's campaign fund to pay additional attorneys because much more legal muscle is needed to mount an adequate defense. However, Sorosky has said that even with the campaign fund Blagojevich doesn't have sufficient funds to pay for lawyers.