Reporting with Sarah Ostman
One of Rod Blagojevich's lawyers, Sheldon Sorosky, with his dark glasses, slow talk and over-annunciation, might be the perfect fit to cross examine David Abel, the numbers guy who just testified for the government.
Sorosky starts asking Abel about tax increases, apparently attempting to get him to say that Blagojevich could have dug the state out of $5 billion budget hole by making Illinois residents pay more money, but he chose not to.
The government is up and down objecting, as Sorosky tries to ask the same question five or six different ways.
At one point during an objection by the government, Judge James Zagel starts to explain why he's upholding it, he says he can choose a variety of reasons.
Sorosky starts telling Zagel what he thinks about the question.
"But you're not actually supposed to tell me what you think," Zagel says, to laughter in the room.
Zagel seems to play the role of a tutor, explaining to Sorosky at different points why he shouldn't ask some questions and nudging him toward the better way to do it.
The unfazed Sorosky goes on and on, he's asking about all kinds of things that didn't come up during the government's brief questioning.
"I want you to confine your questions to the things that are actually charged," Zagel tells him.
Zagel, who has upheld about a dozen government objections at this point, has his eyes shut as he rests his head in his hands.
Abel acknowledged that Blagojevich once said at a meeting that the great thing about being governor was that a "C" student got to listen to what an "A" student has to say.
"You were the A student and he was the C student," Sorosky asked.
"I did not acknowledge that at the time," he said, laughing with others in the courtroom.
"Would you acknowledge that now?" Sorosky pressed.
"Probably not a good idea," Abel said.
On a break, with jurors gone, Zagel told the lawyers in the room they shouldn't have laughed when he was addressing Sorosky.
"The question I asked was not meant to be funny," Zagel said, referring to a point when he asked Sorosky if he really wanted something on the record.
"I did not expect to hear audible laughter from either counsel table," Zagel dryly explained to the courtroom.