Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

July 2009 Archives


Judge James Zagel is contemplating opening up a treasure trove of now non-public evidence against Rod Blagojevich -- including transcripts of conversations recorded by the FBI.
Zagel said today in court that he will decide by next week whether he will make public sealed documents and transcripts of those recordings.
His upcoming ruling is in response to a CNN bid last month, asking to make public documents and transcripts of secret recordings of the ousted governor.
CNN called Blagojevich's case: "perhaps the single biggest political corruption scandal in Illinois' history," and argued that "a prosecution which is done in secret, either in whole or in part, runs contrary to our constitutional notions of justice."
Zagel's ruling will likely also address a request by the Chicago Tribune to unseal materials involving Blago codefendant William Cellini.

Why Rod's on the radio: "We got a guy who's innocent."

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Asked to explain why, exactly, an indicted ex-governor continues to host radio shows and
appear on television even as he faces a massive criminal indictment, one of Rod Blagojevich's lawyers gave it his best shot today: "We got a guy who's innocent," Sam Adam Jr. said. "When you're innocent, you stand on top of the roof and yell it."
On Sunday, Blagojevich hosted a two-hour talk-show on WLS (890 AM). He's slotted to do the same this weekend.
Is all the media play working?
"We have no idea," said another lawyer, Shelly Sorosky.
The two men were leaving a federal court hearing today where another defense lawyer formally dropped off Blago's team without giving a reason.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel said next week he's likely to decide whether to make public now-secret FBI transcripts involving wiretapped conversations of the ex-governor.
Both CNN and the Chicago Tribune have pending bids to unseal materials in the case.

Monk plea a no-go tomorrow

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Don't expect Rod Blagojevich's longtime buddy and former chief of staff Lon Monk to plead guilty tomorrow.
"It's going to be delayed," Monk's San Francisco lawyer Michael Shepard told me today.
Monk is now expected to change his not guilty plea to a guilty plea on Aug. 11, according to the court docket.
Shepard didn't want to discuss details.
But these kinds of hold-ups are pretty typical for plea deals, especially when they involve a promise of cooperation -- as is expected in Monk's.
Monk, who faces just one count in an indictment he shares with Blago, has been in talks with prosecutors for months now. The potential of his becoming a witness is significant because he was close to Blagojevich during both terms in office, either as a top aide or working in the campaign fund.
Even as a lobbyist, Monk was intensely involved in helping the ex-governor raise campaign cash up until the final months of 2008.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported the feds had tapped Monk's
cell phone last year and secretly recorded many conversations.
Monk, an attorney and sports agent, was recorded talking to the ex-governor about an alleged shakedown of a horse-racing executive.

Blago to host WLS. In case you've missed him.

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Blagojevich Ettinger

It's been at least five minutes since we've heard from him last.
So, in true Rod Blagojevich spirit, Chicagoans will hear from him for the next two Sundays.
The media-hungry, indicted ex-governor will hit the airwaves this weekend when he hosts a two-hour talk-show on WLS (890 AM).
Blago, whom his PR handlers have now deemed a "national celebrity," will spout 12-2 p.m. this Sunday and next in what the station is calling 'must-listen' radio.
"The personalities on The Big 89 are compelling, knowledgeable, opinionated and often times, controversial," WLS-AM program director Bob Shomper said. "Former Gov. Blagojevich has all of these gifts and more."

That didn't take long. Blago loses another lawyer.

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It was just last month that Chicago lawyer Giel Stein joined Rod Blagojevich's defense team.
After a judge agreed to appoint him, Giel stopped in the federal courthouse hallway to gab about how he looked forward to joining the case and heading up a team of lawyers to review a "mountain" of documents.
Well, four weeks later, Stein wants out.
He's filed a request with Judge James Zagel to get off the ex-governor's case without giving a reason.
"I am prohibited by the attorney work-product privilege from discussing the reasons for my desire to withdraw," Stein said today.
But he isn't the first to go.
Defense lawyer Ed Genson quit team Blago in January after internal bickering with the ex-gov and other lawyers on the team.
Then Genson's partner, Terry Gillespie, joined up as a Blagojevich defense lawyer only to quit after Blago was indicted along with a Downstate millionaire who Gillespie already represented.

A tumultuous year for Roland Burris

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U.S. Sen. Roland Burris' decision not to run for election in 2010 caps a tumultuous six months for the Chicago Democrat that began with his jaw-dropping appointment by a criminally charged governor and was punctuated by his controversial testimony before a state panel.

Burris' varying sworn testimony before the state impeachment committee -- revealed by the Chicago Sun-Times -- led to a U.S. Senate ethics probe, a state perjury investigation, as well as numerous calls for his resignation.
Read more

Blago lawyer rips witness

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Rod Blagojevich's veteran attorney, Sam Adam, lit into the former governor's onetime chief of staff, telling the Sun-Times John Harris was creating "fiction" against his old boss in exchange for a reduced sentence. His comments came a day after Harris pleaded guilty and announced he'd testify against Blagojevich in next year's trial.

Read today's story: Blago lawyer lashes out at ex-chief of staff

BURRIS WON'T SEEK ELECTION: SNEED

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Our Michael Sneed reports that the embattled U.S. Sen. Roland Burris will not seek election in 2010. Late last year, Burris was controversially appointed to President Obama's vacant seat by the now-ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich just after Blagojevich was charged with with trying to sell it. In February, the Sun-Times revealed Burris gave misleading testimony before a state impeachment panel as well as misleading public statements about the extent of his contacts with Blagojevich's fund-raising operation. The revelation launched a U.S. Senate ethics probe as well as a state criminal perjury probe. A Downstate prosecutor ultimately declined to pursue perjury charges.

Read Sneed: Burris won't run

Here's John Harris' plea deal

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Terry Ekl, the attorney representing former Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris, said his client's testimony at trial could be pretty damaging for the ousted governor.
"Working for Gov. Blagojevich for the most honest people, was an extraordinarily difficult thing to do," Ekl said after his client pleaded guilty to one wire fraud count today. "I think John Harris ties a lot of incidents together. He will come across before a jury as absolutely 100 percent honest, because he is. I think his testimony will have a significant impact in the government's case against the former governor."

HARRIS PLEADS GUILTY

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A former top aide to Rod Blagojevich pleaded guilty today to wire fraud, admitting he discussed having his the-boss appoint an adviser to President Obama to the U.S. Senate in exchange for financial benefits for the ex-governor.

As part of his plea deal in federal court, former chief of staff John Harris, 47, of Chicago, has agreed to act as a witness against Blagojevich. Today's plea makes Harris the first of those indicted in the same case as Blagojevich to officially turn on his old boss. The government will recommend Harris receive 35 months for his crime. Harris' lawyer said after court he'll seek far less.

Harris was arrested along with Blagojevich last December. Almost immediately, he agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. Although his name appeared throughout the 75-page indictment handed down in April, he faced just one count of wire fraud.

The charge involves phone discussions Harris had with Washington D.C. advisors regarding landing financial benefits for Blagojevich in exchange for appointing senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Obama became president.

Jarrett is not accused of wrongdoing and Obama, in a report released last year, said Jarrett did not take part in any quid pro quo discussions with Blagojevich.

Harris' attorney, Terry Ekl, has said Harris had done nothing to financially benefit himself. His cooperation has been crucial to giving prosecutors a roadmap to Blagojevich's final days in office.

Blagojevich's longtime pal and former chief of staff, Lon Monk, who was pivotal in the ex-governor's fund-raising efforts, is also expected to enter a guilty plea later this month.

SWEET: Lisa Madigan won't run for Senate or Governor

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is expected to announce at 2 p.m. today that she will not run for Governor or a U.S. Senate seat, our Lynn Sweet reports.
Madigan was viewed as a front-runner among Democrats for both posts.

Blago's ex-chief of staff to plead guilty today

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Rod Blagojevich's ex-chief of staff John Harris is scheduled to plead guilty at noon today, making him the first in the ex-governor's immediate case to officially turn on his old boss.
In December, Harris, then the governor's chief of staff, was arrested along with Blagojevich on corruption charges that included attempting to put President Obama's U.S. Senate seat up for sale.
In April, Harris' attorney, Terry Ekl, disclosed Harris will be a witness against the impeached governor.
In the government's April 2 indictment, Harris was charged with just one count of wire fraud.
Harris' cooperation came early and has been crucial to giving prosecutors a roadmap to Blagojevich's final days in office.
Ekl has said Harris, 47, of Chicago, had done nothing to financially benefit himself.
Blago's longtime pal Lon Monk is also expected to plead guilty later this month.

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