Reporting with Sarah Ostman
The trial adjourned early today as lawyers battled over airing Rod Blagojevich's $1.2 million debt to Winston & Strawn law firm in spring of 2008.
Outside of the jury's presence, prosecutors, who were about to show the jury a chart detailing his legal bills, say it's relevant to reveal Blagojevich's need for cash in early 2008.
The firm sent a letter in March, 2008 saying they hadn't received payment in more than a year and that they were terminating their relationship with Blagojevich.
Defense lawyer Shelly Sorosky complained that detailing the bills was beyond prejudicial to Blagojevich. Sorosky said that out of 500 hours of recorded conversations, Blagojevich never said he needed money to pay lawyers. Sorosky said the evidence about Blagojevich's shopping habits (that he spent $400,000 on fine clothing) had a "touch of humor." But the legal bills did not.
"Not once in the taped conversation is there any, any reference to, Oh, I got to raise money to pay lawyers," Sorosky said.
He said the legal bill, which was negotiated down, was paid four months earlier.
(Prosecutor Reid Schar quibbled with that assertion.)
Judge James Zagel asked for more information in the morning but said, outstanding bills, "show a significant need for money in 2008 is really relevant," and was likely to allow the jury to hear only the final bill amount.
Finally, Zagel told the defense it has to "set forth precisely" its affirmative defense, that is, what they are going to say Blagojevich told a lawyer and what a lawyer said in response. The defense has said it will put on a case that says Blagojevich acted on the advice of counsel.
Zagel gave some examples, including:
"'I don't think they have anything on you, Rocky,' that's not advice of counsel."