Ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich trial set to start

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Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is set to go on trial on charges of corruption, including attempting to sell President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Mr Blagojevich has denied all 24 charges which include racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion and bribery.

He was arrested 18 months ago along with his brother and co-defendant, Robert Blagojevich.

The trial begins with jury selection.

Mr Blagojevich, who intends to take the witness stand, wants the court to hear 500 hours of taped phone conversations to prove his innocence.

Predecessor in prison
Prosecutors say that in the conversations, recorded by the FBI, he attempted to sell or trade Mr Obama's seat.

Other corruption charges relate to demanding donations from potential campaign contributors in exchange for favours.

Mr Blagojevich, a Democrat who was twice elected as governor, was impeached last year. He has vehemently protested his innocence.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to 415 years in prison and ordered to pay fines of $6m (£4.1m).

His predecessor as Illinois governor, Republican George Ryan, was convicted of racketeering and wire fraud and is now serving a six-and-a-half year sentence.

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