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

January 2010 Archives

Federal prosecutors expect a grand jury to return a new indictment against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his brother next week, they said in court today.
Prosecutors are expected to reindict the governor and Rob Blagojevich to help avoid problems with a disputed law that's being weighed this session by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar said that would likely happen by the end of next week.
That likely means that both the ex-governor and his brother will soon make an appearance again in federal court to formally enter a plea to the new indictment.
The high court is looking at three cases dealing with the honest services statute -- something the Blagojevich brothers are now accused of violating.
The new indictment isn't expected to break new ground.
"It is anticipated that any new charges would be based on the underlying conduct that currently encompasses the pending charges," prosecutors wrote in a December filing.
Defense lawyers have said they would seek a delay in the trial if the high court ends up throwing out the honest services statute, but U.S. District Judge James Zagel has said he was unlikely to give much of an extension.
Rod Blagojevich lawyer Sam Adam Jr. said his team will do all it can to be ready for trial as scheduled in June. He said he and the former governor have yet to finish listening to the hundreds of hours of recordings in the case.
Attorney for Rob Blagojevich, Michael Ettinger, said he believes the government will charge his client with extortion for the same underlying alleged conduct involving discussions for a campaign contribution. Ettinger said a new charge -- even if it's based on the same conduct -- could change the strategy of the defense.
"We'd have to go over the tapes again and prepare the defense for new conduct," Ettinger said.

"This defendant is Rod Blagojevich, not Tony Soprano"

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Milorad Soprano?
Attorneys for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (birthname, Milorad) lashed out at the government for not wanting to turn over an advanced copy of its witness list. The government cited many reasons, including security.
"This defendant is Rod Blagojevich, not Tony Soprano," lawyers wrote. This is the trial of the former governor for alleged non-violent offenses, not a replay of the Family Secrets (mob) trial."
Blagojevich's attorneys were responding to prosecutors who are holding back their list, saying there will be plenty of opportunity to get a handle on witnesses closer to the June trial.
"The security and potential harassment of the potential witnesses cuts against providing the defendants with a list of witness identities," prosecutors recently wrote in a court filing.
Lawyers asked again for an early return on statements made by witnesses to the FBI. That includes President Obama and his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who were interviewed by the FBI in 2008 after Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Prosecutors technically don't have to turn over that information until the time of trial. But they've said they will hand over witness statements three months ahead of time, or in March.


Rod Blagojevich has unapologetically compared himself to Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
But minutes after news of his "blacker than Barack Obama" remarks became public this morning, the former governor was scrambling to set up a news conference to apologize.
In the February issue of Esquire magazine, Blagojevich says he had a tougher time growing up than Obama.
"I'm blacker than Barack Obama," Blagojevich told the magazine. "I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up."
Perhaps realizing his remarks could alienate potential jurors for his June trial -- who hail from Obama's home state, which overwhelmingly voted for Obama -- Blagojevich this morning held a news conference from his home saying the comment was "stupid, stupid, stupid."
It was meant as a metaphor, he said, adding that he was obviously not blacker than the president.
It may be the first time Blagojevich has publicly apologized for anything since his December 2008 arrest on corruption charges.
Blagojevich launched a media offensive following his charges, saying the morning of his arrest he felt the same way he imagined some of the world's greatest human rights activists must have felt when they were persecuted.
He's scheduled to go on trial in June with his brother, Rob Blagojevich.

Read the Esquire Magazine story: "The Notorious Blago"

Blagojevich to Esquire: "I'm blacker than Barack Obama"

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Rod Blagojevich called statements he made to Esquire magazine 'a stupid thing to say' this morning on WLS-AM radio.
Blagojevich said he was blacker than President Obama because he grew up poor and at one point shined shoes.
"I'm blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived," Blagojevich said. "I saw it all growing up."
This morning when word of his comments broke, he called a news conference in front of his North Side home to apologize.

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