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

December 2009 Archives

Blagojevich brother: Feds went too far in tapping my phone

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Rod Blagojevich's brother, Robert, is asking a judge to keep private 208 phone calls he says the FBI wrongly intercepted as part of its investigation into the former governor.
A defense court pleading filed today reveals that the feds captured more than 1,500 phone calls from the cell phone of Rob Blagojevich during their covert investigation last year.
As part of the FBI's wiretapping operation, they captured more than five hours of private conversations between Robert Blagojevich and his wife or between himself and his son. Those conversations should not have been part of FBI eavesdropping and were a violation of a court order and the law, contends Michael Ettinger, Rob Blagojevich's lawyer.
"To the extent that they did it, my client is extremely upset as is his wife," Ettinger said. Ettinger said there's nothing illicit in the conversations -- but they're private.
"It's wrong, they violated the statute. And it's the principle of it. They can't break the law and get away with it," Ettinger said.
Rob Blagojevich, a Nashville, Tenn. resident who was heading his brother's campaign fund last year, was eventually charged with two counts of wire fraud -- tied to a controversial honest services statute.
So if they're asking to suppress just these tapes -- does that mean that the defense isn't objecting to thousands of phone calls that were captured?
"That's an excellent question. This is the first step to subsequent motions regarding the tapes and that's all I'm going to say," Ettinger said.
In an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times last fall, Rob and his wife, Julie said they were horrified at the level of privacy penetrated by the FBI. Julie Blagojevich said she cried the first time she heard her voice on tape. Neither she, nor their son, were part of the investigation and agents should have shut down recording when they heard family members' voices.

The Rod Blagojevich defense calls ... President Obama?

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Rod Blagojevich's lawyers believe there's one person who will say he knew nothing about a quid-pro-quo for a U.S. Senate seat and he happens to be the President of the United States.

The Chicago Sun-Times first reported Saturday that defense lawyers were seeking material involving the FBI's interviews of then-President Elect Barack Obama. Former Gov. Blagojevich faces charges he tried selling an appointment to Obama's senate seat in exchange for campaign cash or other personal benefits.
Defense lawyers want an early return on an FBI interview of then-President-Elect Obama concerning his staff's contacts with Blagojevich and the ex-governor's staff.

I asked defense lawyers Monday what was so pressing about getting this information. They told me they wanted an early line on whether they will call Obama as a witness.

After a court hearing Wednesday, Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. said he thinks Obama would make an "awesome" witness.

Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson said the defense must clear major hurdles before coming close to the president.
The White House can cite a myriad of reasons not to testify -- everything from National
Security, to schedule conflicts to forcing the defense to find alternate options.
"Lots of options before you see President Obama traipsing into Rod Blagojevich's trial,"
she said.


Rod Blagojevich's defense lawyers said this weekend they're seeking all transcripts, notes and any other information regarding the FBI's Dec. 2008 interviews of then-President Elect Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett and others.
Defense lawyers said they need the information early so they can prepare for June trial, which will center in part, on charges that Blagojevich attempted to sell Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. (As governor, Blagojevich had the sole power to appoint Obama's replacement).
Emanuel was caught on wiretap discussing political moves with Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, including discussing Jarrett as an appointment possibility, the Sun-Times has previously reported.

Federal prosecutors may reindict former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to help avoid problems with a possible U.S. Supreme Court decision, prosecutors said in a court filing today.

The high court is looking at three cases dealing with the honest services statute -- something Blagojevich is now accused of violating. Blagojevich's defense team had asked for a trial delay to see how a Supreme Court's ruling may affect his case.


Authorities are executing a search warrant today in connection with the theft of laptops in the case of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Sun-Times has learned.

Sources say police have a solid lead on a suspect who may have broken into the South Side offices of Sam Adam and Sam Adam Jr., Blagojevich's attorneys.


Authorities are investigating a break-in at the South Side offices of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawyers, where a handful of laptop computers used in the ex-governor's case were stolen.

Eight computers and a safe were swiped Thursday from the office of veteran criminal defense attorneys Sam Adam and his son Sam Adam Jr., Deputy Supt. Steve Peterson said.

Sam Adam Jr. said eight to 10 laptops were taken -- about half of which dealt with the Blagojevich case.

However, Adam said he's "99 percent sure" sensitive material was not on those laptops. The laptops link up to a main server where the sensitive material -- including tapes and transcripts that are not public -- is stored.

Tapes and transcripts were not downloaded on the laptops, but Adam said they're still determining whether anything sensitive may have been stored in the computers' temporary files.


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