CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - If former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has his way, Wednesday's court hearing on his racketeering charges will be a showdown between him and the lead prosecutor in the case.
Blagojevich threw down the gauntlet during a defiant news conference Tuesday, in which he called his accusers "liars" and "cowards," and directly challenged U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is heading the prosecution.
Blagojevich accused federal authorities of trying to keep some of the tapes FBI agents made of his phone conversations from being heard by a jury.
"I challenge Mr. Fitzgerald... Why don't you show up in court tomorrow and explain to everybody, explain to the whole world why you don't want the tapes that you made played in court?" Blagojevich said to reporters. "I'll be in court tomorrow. I hope you're man enough to show up," he added, referring to Fitzgerald.
During his impassioned commentary, the former governor said several times that he was innocent and that the tapes of his conversations would prove it.
"It Is because there is a smoking gun in those tapes. And the smoking gun is that the government is covering up (is) the big lie Mr. Fitzgerald gave to the world when he had me arrested," Blagojevich added.
The case will be discussed at the preliminary hearing in federal court in Chicago Wednesday.
Authorities have said that Blagojevich and his inner circle engaged in a near-constant conspiracy of extortion and kickbacks after his 2002 election.
The accusations also include tens of thousands of dollars in unearned commissions and unnecessary retainer fees diverted to Blagojevich's wife after he and his co-conspirators learned they were being investigated.
Blagojevich, a two-term Democrat, resigned in January 2009 amid accusations that he had attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been occupied by newly elected President Barack Obama.
The former governor was arrested the month before his resignation on federal corruption charges that included wire fraud, mail fraud and solicitation of bribery.