CHICAGO (Reuters) - Good luck trying to shut up Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor, future criminal defendant and current celebrity contestant on NBC’s “The Apprentice.”
Prosecutors asked a judge on Monday to order Blagojevich, who is in New York shooting the reality program, not to talk during the show about evidence likely to come up in his trial next year on charges he tried to sell President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat and abused his office.
Blagojevich, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 30 years in prison.
Since his arrest last year, Blagojevich has made the rounds of New York television chat and news shows to maintain his innocence and he hosts a Chicago radio show, where he insists he is the “anti-Nixon” anxious to have the truth come out.
The show, which could air next spring with or without Blagojevich, features mogul Donald Trump berating second-tier celebrities who are ordered to carry out tasks. Other contestants are Cyndi Lauper and Sharon Osborne, lawyers said.
Prosecutor Reid Schar said he feared Blagojevich’s comments could influence potential jurors in the case, which is expected to begin between April and July.
Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court in Chicago said his concern was that Blagojevich will make statements that could come back to haunt him or could disrupt the trial.
“I don’t want to create something that makes a mess, for everybody,” said Zagel, who added he has watched two episodes of “The Apprentice.”
“There is much more here than a game show. There is a confessional element where people say things about themselves and about other people,” Zagel said.
The judge ordered prosecutors to submit their request under seal and try to seek an understanding with defense lawyers about the loquacious Blagojevich, who was not in court.
“This is the first time I’ve heard (prosecutors) ask to shut a defendant up,” Blagojevich lawyer Sam Adam Jr. said after the brief hearing.
In May, Zagel forbade Blagojevich from going to Costa Rica to join the cast of “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” and admonished him to pay attention to his case. Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, took his spot on the show.
Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Doina Chiacu