Blagojevich seeks permission to participate in reality show in Costa Rica
Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich will ask a U.S. court for permission to leave the United States to participate in a reality TV series in Costa Rica.
Blagojevich is slated to appear in NBC's I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, premiering on June 1, NBC confirmed late Tuesday.
Blagojevich "will be a participant on the show pending the court's approval," the statement said.
Blagojevich, 52, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal corruption charges. He is accused of scheming to auction off U.S. President Barack Obama's former senate seat, attempting to extort campaign money from companies seeking state business and plotting to use the financial muscle of the governor's office to pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers who called for his impeachment.
The charges of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion and making false statements each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Blagojevich will receive $80,000 per week he appears in the reality series, which will pit 10 minor celebrities against each other in Survivor inspired competitions, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing an unnamed source. Viewers of the series, which is scheduled to run for four weeks, will get to decide who leaves the Costa Rican jungle after each episode.
NBC describes the series as "the ultimate Swiss Family Robinson" that will challenge the competitors to win food, supplies and luxury items while testing their skills at adapting to the wilderness. The last remaining celebrity will be "crowned King or Queen of the Jungle," according to a statement from NBC, and will receive a cash prize for a charity of their choice.
Blagojevich will seek permission from Judge James Zagel, who is presiding over the corruption trial, to take part in the series, said an attorney close to Blagojevich's legal team who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Currently Blagojevich's bail does not allow him to leave the United States.
Lawyers have been reluctant to file an appearance in court on behalf of Blagojevich because it could lock them into a case that will likely consume thousands of hours over the next two years without any guarantee they would be paid.
No big names among Chicago's criminal defence lawyers are offering free services to Blagojevich.
Blagojevich does have money in his Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund. But prosecutors have put defence lawyers on notice they will ask Zagel to order the campaign money forfeited if Blagojevich is convicted. Lawyers could be ordered to return their fees if they were paid from the campaign fund.
With files from the Associated Press