It was day one of the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich started today. The U.S District Judge James B. Zagel is hiding the identities of jurors from the public and the press until a verdict is reached.
Star witnesses are to (probably) include his wife Patti, Tony Rezko, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jessie Jackson, Jessie Jackson Jr., Rham Emanuel, and a host of who's-who of the Illinois Democratic Machine - all except for Mr. Obama, who got a hall pass from Zagel earlier.
Outside the courthouse, the former governor on his arrival angered the U.S. Marshal Service by stopping to hug spectators. He previously had been told to walk straight into the building.
"God bless, you governor," one man yelled, prompting Blagojevich to pull him into a bear hug.
The ex- governor smiled broadly as he entered the building in a dark blue suit.
"I feel great," he said.
He gave a quick "hey" to the media line.
Patti Blagojevich, dressed in black-and-white coat with a black skirt, stopped before heading upstairs to address the news media and thank the people who have stood by the family during the past 18 months.
"The well wishes, e-mails and rosaries left on our doorstep...have helped us through a rough time. But today is a good day because today begins the process of clearing my husband's name," she said.
"I know my husband is an honest man and I know that he is not guilty."
The 24-count indictment against Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, who ran his campaign fund, charges them with trading favors for campaign contributions. The centerpiece of the trial promises to be the accusation that the then-governor offered the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama to the highest bidder in the fall of 2008.
If convicted, Blagojevich faces up to 415 years in prison and fines totaling $6 million.
In the meantime, this trial will pull back the giant rock over the dirt that is Illinois politics and show all the grubs and centipedes running around in the darkness.
Now is the one chance for everyone in Illinois to look at the process in which they are governed - and this shall be perhaps their last chance to decide to make a change in that process.