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Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

March 2010 Archives

Rod Blagojevich lawyers to argue today for trial delay

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The judge presiding over Rod Blagojevich's case is likely to give some direction today on when the former governor's corruption trial will begin. Blagojevich wants the June 3rd trial moved to November. Prosecutors say it should go on as planned.
Prosecutors might bring up the fact that at the same time Blagojevich's lawyers complain they don't have enough time to prepare for trial, their client appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" and "The Late Show," with David Letterman last week.
But Blagojevich's lawyers have said the former governor, ousted from his public post last year, is taking part in the media stints to make money.

Prosecutors say Blagojevich shouldn't get trial delay

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Rod Blagojevich, who made his debut Sunday night as a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice," asked for a trial delay last week.
Today, prosecutors said in a filing that the former governor should get no such delay.
Blagojevich asked that the trial be moved from June 3 to November for two reasons: 1) the Supreme Court might strike down a statute that will get rid of some of the charges in his case; 2) Blagojevich says he's just recently gotten a mountain of evidence in his case that he has to go through and won't be prepared in time.
Prosecutors said today those reasons don't hold water.
"Defendants are always better off having charges dismissed and not facing
verdict on the charges, and are never prejudiced by such dismissal," prosecutors wrote. "Put simply, it is difficult to see how the defendant is prejudiced by proceeding to trial on
June 3rd based on his argument that he could face fewer charges at the time of
verdict than he does at the beginning of the case."
As for the evidence, prosecutors said they turned it over to the defense weeks before the deadline set by presiding U.S. District Judge James Zagel.
There's a hearing in the case Wednesday.


He's asked for testimony from Mayor Daley and up to 10 Chicago aldermen.
But politically-connected developer Calvin Boender, on trial for bribing a city alderman to get a zoning chane for his West Side development, sent out a subpoena to an unlikely recipient: Rod Blagojevich.
The former governor received the subpoena two weeks ago, one of his lawyers said.
But Blago won't be taking the witness stand.
His lawyers opposed the subpoena, saying the indicted ex-governor and Boender don't know each other.
The defense agreed to withdraw it this morning, said Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky.
"Boender didn't know him and Blagojevich had no knowledge of the issues at trial," Sorosky said.
Sorosky said it was former Ald. Ike Carothers with whom Boender had political ties. Boender is accused of paying for nearly $40,000 in repairs to Carothers' home in exchange for a zoning change on his Galewood Yards property. Carothers has pleaded guilty and resigned from his public position.
"He knew Carothers, they were fellow Democrats," Sorosky said.
Blagojevich had asked Carothers for political support in his campaigns.
"And Carothers supported him but it had nothing to do with the issues before the court," Sorosky said.
Carothers' lawyer had no comment.
U.S. District Judge Robert Dow hasn't ruled yet on whether Mayor Daley or the 10 aldermen will testify.

Blagojevich wants his trial moved to November

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Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has repeatedly said he's looking forward to clearing his name at his trial.
But now he wants that trial to start five months later than scheduled.
Lawyers for the indicted governor made a formal request to continue the June trial to November, saying they've been snowed under by recently turned over evidence and they still await a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
"Simply put, it is not physically possible to properly and adequately prepare for trial by the scheduled trial date," lawyers wrote.
Attorneys say they've been working around the clock but have been snowed under in documents.
They were just handed tens of thousands of pages of grand jury transcripts and FBI reports, which detail statements witnesses made in interviews.
All of that material, however, was turned over months earlier than the government was required to give it up.
Still in question though is when the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down -- or at least redefine -- the honest services statute. The high court has taken up three honest services cases and the legal community is expecting an overhaul to the law.
No one knows when their ruling will come down.
But the court has to rule before its session ends in late June.
Both Rod Blagojevich and his brother, Rob, face some charges involving honest services (defined as depriving someone -- in this case the people of Illinois -- to their "intangible right" to Blago's "honest services.").
In preparation for the high court, federal prosecutors in February re-indicted the brothers, adding new charges for the same underlying conduct.
So now, of the 24 counts against Rod Blagojevich, 13 allege an honest services violation.
For Rob, three of five counts allege honest services.
Lawyers say taking away those counts could change the game dramatically.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel has said in the past he was unlikely to grant much of a trial extension. The U.S. Attorney's office had no comment on the delay request.

Blagojevich to announce 'Top Ten' on David Letterman

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Rod Blagojevich has sat across from David Letterman before.
Months after his arrest, Blagojevich told the late-night host he'd always wanted to be on his show "in the worst way."
"You are on in the worst way," Letterman said.
Looks like that will happen again.
Blagojevich's PR folks said today that the ousted governor of Illinois will read Letterman's "Top Ten" list. Usually the "Top Ten" reading is an honor set-aside for recent medal winners and rising stars.
On Sunday, Blagojevich is set for a premiere on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice."
Meanwhile, his criminal case continues to loom.
The former governor faces 24 counts, from racketeering to false statement charges. His trial right now is scheduled for June.

From his PR crew:
(PRNewsChannel) / March 09, 2010 / Chicago, Ill. / Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will read David Letterman's 'Top Ten' tomorrow on CBS' "Late Show."

"Rod Blagojevich is thrilled to have been asked to do the 'Top Ten' on Letterman," says Glenn Selig, Blagojevich's spokesman and founder of The Publicity Agency (http://www.thepublicityagency.com). "He had a blast the last time he was on the show and has a great deal of respect for David Letterman. He looks forward to being on the show again."

Barbara Walters, Olympic gold medal skater Evan Lysacek and Britney Spears have each recently been selected to read the 'Top Ten' on Letterman.

"That's quite a group to be a part of," says Selig. "He's honored and excited."

This Sunday, the former Illinois governor competes on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" to raise money for his favorite charity, the Children's Cancer Center in Tampa as he appears on the Donald Trump reality show.

Blagojevich to announced 'Top Ten' on David Letterman

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From Blagojevich's PR people:

(PRNewsChannel) / March 09, 2010 / Chicago, Ill. / Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will read David Letterman's 'Top Ten' tomorrow on CBS' "Late Show."

"Rod Blagojevich is thrilled to have been asked to do the 'Top Ten' on Letterman," says Glenn Selig, Blagojevich's spokesman and founder of The Publicity Agency (http://www.thepublicityagency.com). "He had a blast the last time he was on the show and has a great deal of respect for David Letterman. He looks forward to being on the show again."

Barbara Walters, Olympic gold medal skater Evan Lysacek and Britney Spears have each recently been selected to read the 'Top Ten' on Letterman.

"That's quite a group to be a part of," says Selig. "He's honored and excited."

This Sunday, the former Illinois governor competes on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" to raise money for his favorite charity, the Children's Cancer Center in Tampa as he appears on the Donald Trump reality show.

Rod Blagojevich's "charm" on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" apparently managed to win over his fellow contestants.
Read a review of the reality show by Chicago Sun-Times Television Critic Paige Wiser: click here.

The show premieres March 14.


To some, the irony was as thick as the shock of hair on his head: indicted ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich addressed Northwestern University students Tuesday night about ethics and morals in government.
One student said the event was akin to inviting Tiger Woods to speak about fidelity.
But ever the expert orator, Blagojevich had a Northwestern University auditorium --packed with about 1,000 people -- laughing.
Even if the yuks were usually on him.
Blagojevich, a Northwestern alum, who married his wife, Patti, on the campus 20 years ago, revealed the feds have subpoenaed his grades and student information from when he attended 30 years ago.
He invited the FBI to also look at his law school performance at Pepperdine Law School in Malibu, Calif.
"If they look at those grades they'll see -- I obviously never cheated on an exam," Blagojevich said to much laughter.
A panel of three professors sparred with the slippery Blagojevich and had alternating success at pinning him down on an answer.
Blagojevich spoke to a skeptical student body, who didn't cut him much of a break. When Blagojevich evaded questions, they snickered.
They laughed when he plugged his book and drew parallels between his case and the war in Iraq.
Blagojevich won chuckles when he said there was "nothing ethically wrong," with wanting to meet Sarah Palin.
He was booed when he likened U.S. Senate leaders to southern segregationists for initially not allowing his pick for senator -- Roland Burris -- into the U.S. Capitol last year.
"Shame," someone from the crowd shouted.
"You don't like Burris?" Blagojevich asked.
"No -- you," he responded.
"My friend, I have love in my heart for you," the ex-governor said.
One student asked Blagojevich why, if he were innocent, has he gone on a media "circus" tour, including an upcoming "Celebrity Apprentice," appearance.
"If I did things wrong, I would do none of that," Blagojevich said. "It ain't so. I didn't do it. And by the way, play all the tapes."
At that, Blagojevich won loud applause.
One student, Samir Pendse, said Blagojevich left him with "a sleazy feel." But the more Blagojevich talked, the more the Northwestern senior couldn't help but feel some empathy for him.
"It was such self-deprecating stuff, you almost at times had to empathize with him," Pendse said.
Still, Pendse, a political science and economics major, didn't buy that the former governor was "morally or ethically innocent," he said.
Ravi Umarji, also a senior, said while he was skeptical of Blagojevich's claims of innocence, he was surprised to find himself at times laughing with him -- not just at him.
"The key thing I came away with: I'm shocked by how good of a speaker he is," Umarji said. "I was amazed by how well he can get a crowd to respond to him."
Blagojevich, 52, is scheduled to go to trial on wide-ranging corruption charges in June.

Northwestern students get to ask Blagojevich questions

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Rod Blagojevich's closing remarks to Northwestern students had to do with his family.
"I'm real, what happened to me ain't true. What happened to my wife and my two daughters -- it's a horrible, horrible thing.
"You can fight back. When you have the truth on your side -- and the tapes -- (laughter) you can fight back."
Going on about his life in politics, he says: "Thunderbolts come out of nowhere," he means this seriously but he's met with loud laughter and sarcastic clapping. "Sometimes in life, you get your ass kicked."

First question from student -- what's his advice on ethics? "You're going to laugh, but it's true. Surround yourself with good lawyers."
He was right. People laughed.

Another question: would he be on a reality show with Sarah Palin: "I kind of want to meet her....nothing unethical about that. I don't agree with her politics, but I want to meet her." (More laughter)
He then goes on (and on) about how they did once indeed meet and how the world is more celebrity-driven.

Blagojevich vs. Northwestern Law Professor

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Now we're getting into questioning by Northwestern Law Professor Tonja Jacobi.
Blagojevich gets into it a little bit with Jacobi after she says she believes there are expressed quid pro quos in the allegations.
Blagojevich says there's no expressed quid pro quos alleged in the indictment.
"We haven't had a case yet," Jacobi said, raising her voice a bit.
"You're buying into it," Blagojevich said, really getting into it. After he goes on, Jacobi cuts him off.
"What I really prefer is that you answer the original question."
WOO! someone screamed.
"Let me answer that," Blagojevich promises. "If you did a public act and you get financial gain for a public act...(he drifts) ...
Campaign finances payments ... (he drifts) "I'm pro-choice...they've given campaign contributions. that's perfectly legal."

Donna Leff, professor and on Medill faculty takes umbrage with Blagojevich drawing parallels between himself and Medill students whose notes were subpoenaed by the Cook County state's attorney.
"These students are not accused of any crime and they don't stand indicted," Leff said.
"Their records were subpoened like mine, my college records," Blagojevich said.
She then asked Blagojevich:
Do you think you're facing this today, because of media unfairness?
"No, the media was lied to. You were lied to. You have an obligation to tell the truth."
You know who my first choice for senator was? Mike Madigan's daughter..." (he drifts again.
Leff spars with a slippery Blagojevich who continues to avoid specifically answering questions about the media. He says the Fourth Estate has fallen down on the job but doesn't give a specific example of when the media has failed.
And now ... Blagojevich is somehow talking about weapons of mass destruction.
He says the nation took the government's word.
"And they lied," he said. "The government doesn't always tell the truth."


Rod Blagojevich is now answering questions from a three-member panel.
That includes Don Gordon, Northwestern University adjunct lecturer and polical analyst.
Gordon tells Blagojevich that when the school announced Blagojevich was invited to talk about ethics, it drew criticism from students.
Gordon told the ex-governor the student wrote that: "having you to come here and talk about ethics was akin to bringing Tiger Woods here to talk about fidelity."
Gordon asked Blagojevich how he could say he was a reformer when he took huge amounts of money from corporations, raising unprecedented amounts of money.
Blagojevich talked for some time, wandering off the topic.
Gordon pings him for not answering the question and the audience laughs.

An addendum: the Northwestern student who drew the Woods-Blagojevich parallel was Benjamin Bear. His Facebook wall post: "I can't wait for the next lecture in this series- Tiger Woods on Fidelity."

Gordon asks about Blagojevich's first job with former Ald. Ed "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak.
"He wasn't corrupt until just now. He just pleaded guilty to something," Blagojevich said.
"Nah, nah, nah," Gordon said, again to laughter.

Gordon asked how Blagojevich was surrounded by people who were indicted -- 13 in Operation Board Games.
"How do you explain your association with people here who, in the end, were corrupt?" Gordon asked.
"That's not a lot of people. You mentioned Tony Rezko. I misread Tony Rezko, so did President Obama."

Now we're getting into questioning by Northwestern Law Professor Tonja Jacobi.
Blagojevich gets into it a little bit with Jacobi after she says she believes there are expressed quid pro quos in the allegations.
Blagojevich says there's no expressed quid pro quos.
"We haven't had a case yet," Jacobi said, raising her voice a bit.
"You're buying into it," Blagojevich said, really getting into it. After he goes on, Jacobi cuts him off.
"What I really prefer is that you answer the original question."
WOO! someone screamed.
"Let me answer that. If you did a public act and you get financial gain for a public act...(he drifts) ...
Campaign finances payments ... (he drifts) "I'm pro-choice...they've given campaign contributions. that's perfectly legal."

Rod Blagojevich now is hitting all of the same points we've heard in the past:

His 2009 impeachment was a sham, he says, because he couldn't call witnesses without approval.
That's not quite true, lawmakers have said.
He couldn't call some witnesses -- those included Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett -- whom federal investigators said were involved in their criminal investigation.
Blagojevich did give a prepared statement at that impeachment proceeding.

"Play all the tapes," he then told students. Blagojevich goes over his press conference
from a couple of weeks ago when he said he wouldn't try to bar secret recordings of himself in court. He said he wanted them all played.

Blagojevich now rips on House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton as being part of the deadlock in Springfield.

Blagojevich then went on about his efforts to bring health care to children.

"That was the morality and the ethics of my years as governor," he closed.
You know what their response was, he asked? "No comment."


Beginning his address to Northwestern students, Rod Blagojevich proclaimed his innocence.
Quickly into his talk, he said he recently received a notice from Northwestern University's registrar saying the feds have subpoenaed his college records from 30 years ago. That includes all financial information, his college participation, his grades, "and all my essays if they can find them."
He invited the FBI to also look at his law school grades at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
"If they look at those grades they'll see -- I obviously never cheated on an exam," Rod Blagojevich said to much laughter.

Earlier blog entry:

It's a full crowd here tonight at Northwestern University's Cahn Auditorium where Rod Blagojevich is preparing to address students any minute.
"Ladies and gentleman. Elvis is in the building," a student just announced at the lectern. But the former governor is running typically late.
The indicted former governor's topic?
Ethics in government.
Since his 2008 arrest on corruption charges, Blagojevich has railed against Illinois state lawmakers, blaming deadlock and waste in government on them.
But at least one critic said the irony of Blagojevich's topic tonight is as thick as the pile of hair on his head.
"If you looked up irony, you would see the invitation to the event," said state Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), who partly led the impeachment efforts in Springfield last year.
"It's amazing. My only advice to the students: do the just the opposite of what they're told tonight, then they'll do just fine and live their lives as law-abiding citizens."
Blagojevich was invited by the College Democrats and will answer questions from a panel made up of Northwestern professors.
Dan Rockoff of College Democrats says tonight is: "about how tomorrow's students will have respect for the rule of law." Laughter broke out.

It's a full crowd here tonight at Northwestern University's Cahn Auditorium where Rod Blagojevich is preparing to address students any minute.
"Ladies and gentleman. Elvis is in the building," a student just announced at the lectern. But the former governor is running typically late.
The indicted former governor's topic?
Ethics in government.
Since his 2008 arrest on corruption charges, Blagojevich has railed against Illinois state lawmakers, blaming deadlock and waste in government on them.
But at least one critic said the irony of Blagojevich's topic tonight is as thick as the pile of hair on his head.
"If you looked up irony, you would see the invitation to the event," said state Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), who partly led the impeachment efforts in Springfield last year.
"It's amazing. My only advice to the students: do the just the opposite of what they're told tonight, then they'll do just fine and live their lives as law-abiding citizens."
Blagojevich was invited by the College Democrats and will answer questions from a panel made up of Northwestern professors.
Dan Rockoff of College Democrats says tonight is: "about how tomorrow's students will have respect for the rule of law." Laughter broke out.

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