[JURIST] Impeachment proceedings [materials] began Monday in the Illinois State Senate [official website] against Governor Rod Blagojevich [official website; JURIST news archive], who is boycotting the proceedings. Blagojevich and his lawyers [JURIST report] have refused to attend the proceedings, claiming that Senate procedures are biased and will deny Blagojevich his due process rights. Instead, Blagojevich chose to spend the first day of his trial interviewing with the media. The trial began Monday with Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald [official profile] presiding. Last week, Blagojevich refused to enter a response [JURIST report] to the impeachment charges. Senate president John Cullerton [official profile] entered a not guilty plea on his behalf, and the proceedings will continue as they would if Blagojevich were present.
Blagojevich is the first governor in Illinois history to face an impeachment trial in the State Senate after the Illinois House of Representatives [official website] voted 114-1 to impeach [JURIST report] earlier this month. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested [JURIST report] last month by federal agents on charges of corruption. Both Blagojevich and Harris have been charged [DOJ press release, PDF] with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. They are accused of conspiring to sell or trade the senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama, obtaining illegal campaign contributions, and threatening to withhold assistance to the Chicago Tribune with the sale of Wrigley Field unless two editorial writers who had been critical of Blagojevich were fired. Harris resigned his position after the arrest, while Blagojevich has continued to report to work.