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Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

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Blagojevich: It's official, father-and-son Adams want out

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The father-and-son team of Sam Adam Sr. and Sam Adam Jr. officially want out of Rod Blagojevich's retrial.

Their bombast -- in and out of the courtroom -- was a cornerstone of the former governor's defense in his first corruption trial that concluded with a deadlocked jury on all but one count.

They've asked the judge in the case to allow them to withdraw as they hit the deadline to do so.

The pair filed a joint motion today in federal court saying that they cannot properly defend the former governor at his new trial because of new rules that will kick in.

Those rules, governed by the fact that public funds will bankroll the defense, dictate that Blagojevich can only have two lawyers. The $2.8 million campaign fund that covered the costs of the first trial last summer has been drained.

"Such notification has made it impossible for the same trial team, which consisted of 14 lawyers, and more than 7 paralegals and staff, to stay intact and vigorously defend the charges as brought by the Government," the two wrote in their filing.

The Chicago Sun-Times first reported in August that the two lawyers told other lawyers in the group that they would pull out. They publicly denied it the day the report came out.

The withdrawals are a considerable blow to the former governor's defense. It was Sam Adam Jr. who gave rousing opening and closing arguments. And Sam Adam Sr. handled the cross examination of key witness John Harris.

However, remaining is Aaron Goldstein, a younger lawyer who handled the questioning of a considerable number of witnesses as did Shelly Sorosky, a longtime Blagojevich family friend, has also said he would stay on.

In their filing, the Adams say they will stay on in advisory positions to help with strategy in the retrial.

Read the filing: click here

Given that we reporters face the task of covering a second, marathon Rod Blagojevich trial next year, it seems reporter and tri-athlete Elizabeth Brackett has just the right combination of skills.

Brackett, the author of "Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption Into a National Sideshow," just earned the title of World Champion Tri-athlete.

Here's Paul Meincke's report.

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. this afternoon said he was "deeply sorry," that he "disappointed some supporters," but vowed to stay in office in response to a Chicago Sun-Times article published today that raised questions leveled by a political fund-raiser.
"The allegations about fund-raising and the Senate seat are not new. I've already talked with the authorities about these claims, told them they were false, and no charges have been brought against me," Jackson said in a written statement regarding fund-raiser Raghuveer Nayak. "The very idea of raising millions of dollars for a campaign other than my own is preposterous. My interest in the Senate seat was based on years of public service, which I am proud of, not some improper scheme with anyone. The reference to a social acquaintance is a private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago. I ask that you respect our privacy.
"I know I have disappointed some supporters and for that I am deeply sorry. But I remain committed to serving my constituents and fighting on their behalf."
The Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Nayak told authorities that on Oct. 8 of 2008, Jackson directed him to offer then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich $6 million in exchange for a senate seat appointment. Nayak also told authorities Jackson asked him to pay to fly a "social acquaintance" of the congressman to Chicago.

A political fund-raiser told authorities U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. told him to approach Rod Blagojevich with a $6 million offer for the Senate seat. It's an allegation Jackson steadfastly denies.

Read today's Sun-Times story: Click here

Natasha Korecki
Federal Courts Reporter

As he dips his toes into the City's Mayoral fray, U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. declared this morning that if government prosecutors have evidence on him tied to Rod Blagojevich: "Bring it on."

Jackson, speaking on WLS-AM 890 "Wade and Roma" show this morning, for the first time publicly responded to an allegation that he was present at a meeting when fund-raisers discussed raising $1 million for Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson's appointment.

Jackson said two Indian fund-raisers began speaking in another language at an October 28, 2008 meeting and he didn't know what they were saying.

"I'm not alone at the meeting, it baffled me, you know: 'Jackson sits alone with the Indians,' he said, referring to media coverage after testimony at Blagojevich's trial.
"How about this? Congressman meets with Director of Economic Development and Trade for the State of Illinois...met with him for 30 minutes in the presence of other people and discussed the third airport. Then another gentleman showed up and started having another conversation practically in Hindu, because I don't speak Hindu because I don't speak Hindu ... and I didn't participate in any of that part of the conversation, nor do I even remember hearing it. And I have witnesses present."

One of the witnesses, Rajinder Bedi, testified at Blagojevich's trial that Jackson was sitting with him and another fund-raiser, Raghuveer Nayak, when the $1 million was discussed. Bedi, a government witness, did not say he was speaking in Hindu.
Bedi then testified he paid a visit later that same day to Rod Blagojevich's brother, Robert, and passed along a message that the then-governor would receive campaign money if Jackson were appointed.

The allegation was among the most high-profile of the charges against the former governor. Blagojevich was convicted of one count and jurors were deadlocked on 23 others. His retrial is likely to happen in January, when the Mayoral race will be in full swing.
"And let me say it again: And I have witnesses," Jackson said, emphasizing each word. "So whatever happened to the idea that someone is innocent in America until proven guilty? I've gone through 20 months of unprecedented accusations, of unprecedented besmirching of my character."
"I know that may not be enough for some people. But I've kind of endured this for 20 months."
Jackson was also asked about his closed door meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel this week.
He denied that they both agreed not to bring up Blagojevich should they go head to head in battle.
But he didn't waste time throwing the first stone, noting that Emanuel is on government tapes while he is not.
"The prosecution has concluded, I assume, that what I have to say doesn't contribute to their case," Jackson said. "I assume they have no evidence or else they would have brought a charge.
If I'm a conspirator -- bring it on."

Charges dropped against Wall Street Journal Reporter

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Charges have been dropped against a Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested during the corruption trial of Rod Blagojevich.

Reporter Doug Belkin was arrested in the federal courthouse lobby July 21 for interviewing an attorney outside a reserved media area. He was cited with a misdemeanor, which was dropped.

"We are gratified that the citations against Doug have been dropped, and this matter is now over," Ashley S. Huston, spokeswoman for Dow Jones & Company, said Tuesday.

The federal judge handling Rod Blagojevich's case said this afternoon that after the former governor's retrial, he will not release jurors' names immediately after the verdict.

Instead, he plans to wait 24 hours after a verdict is in to make the names public, he said.

"That's based on the experience some jurors had with the prompt release," U.S. District Judge James Zagel said.

He gave the media until Nov. 1 to file any objections (as they did the last time around) disputing his closure of the names. The new trial is expected to begin early next year.

Jurors in Blagojevich's case deliberated for 14 days before coming to agreement on just one count -- convicting the former governor of lying to the FBI. They remained deadlocked on 23 other counts. They were deadlocked on all four counts against Robert Blagojevich. Prosecutors later dismissed charges against him.

After they delivered the verdict, some jurors complained to Zagel that they were receiving numerous phone calls with interview requests.

Eventually, most jurors in the Blagojevich case submitted to media interviews.

• Also today, Zagel said new questionnaires would be sent to a new panel of potential jurors who will be told the trial is expected to take 10 to 11 weeks. Last time, they were told 15 to 17 weeks.

• Zagel gave prosecutors until Nov. 15 to tell the defense of any "fundamental changes," to the road map of its case. That does not mean they have to submit a witness list though. If the case is getting shorter, that likely means they're not changing too much.

• The next hearing date is set for Oct. 1 -- the same day as the deadline for any defense lawyers to drop out of the case. After court, attorney Shelly Sorosky said there was still no official word on what the father-and-son Adams team would do.

Patrick Fitzgerald on Blagojevich: My lips are sealed

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By Natasha Korecki
Federal Courts Reporter/

Rod Blagojevich's lawyer called him "nuts."
Newspaper editorials have criticized his handling of the former governor's case.
And last week, his office dropped charges against one of two defendants.

Still, when it comes to Rod Blagojevich, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's lips remain sealed shut.

"The whole topic, put a big tent over it and I won't touch it, sorry," Fitzgerald said after reporters peppered him with questions at a news conference about honey importers.
On dropping charges against Robert Blagojevich last week?

No comment.

On the Wall Street Journal asking that he step down?


On what his office has learned after hearing from jurors who have commented on the case?

"The office is aware there's a trial that will be coming in January and therefore we will not be commenting," Fitzgerald said.

Earlier this month, a 12-member jury was deadlocked on most counts against Rod Blagojevich, convicting him of just one of 24 counts. Prosecutors have said they are prepared to retry the remaining 23 counts against Blagojevich and the judge in the case said the retrial isn't expected until January.

The news conference involved charges against an illegal honey importing conspiracy that federal investigators said was the largest food customs case ever brought.

It charges that 11 people and six companies avoided $80 million in customs taxes by illegally importing honey from China. The government charges that the conspiracy involved changing labels and pretending the honey was really imported from other countries, including Indonesia, Russia, Malaysia and elsewhere, to avoid hefty customs fees.

According to charges, some of the honey contained antibiotics, which is not allowed by the FDA, Fitzgerald said. There's no accusation that anyone was harmed from the honey.

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