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

November 2010 Archives


Citing Rod Blagojevich's upcoming retrial -- and a request by the U.S. Department of Justice -- a congressional ethics panel has once again stalled its inquiry into U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., according to a statement by the committee today.

"A retrial of former Governor Blagojevich has been set for April 20, 2011," the statement reads. "The Department of Justice has asked the Standards Committee to continue to defer consideration of this matter and the Standards Committee, following precedent, agreed to defer consideration of this matter at this time."

Last year, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said it would hold off on an inquiry into Jackson because of the initial Blagojevich trial. The former governor was convicted of just one of 24 counts, with a jury deadlocked on the remaining charges.

The committee was looking into whether Jackson or "an agent" offered Blagojevich money in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate.

In September, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that a longtime Jackson family friend and fund-raiser, Raghuveer Nayak, told authorities Jackson directed him to make a money offer to Blagojevich and that Jackson asked him to secretly pay to fly a "social acquaintance" to Chicago.
Nayak told federal investigators that in October 2008 Jackson asked him to relay to Blagojevich that the congressman would raise $5 million for the former governor in exchange for the Senate seat appointment and that the Indian community in Chicago would raise another $1 million.
Nayak also told authorities he paid for two airline trips for a "social acquaintance" of the Democratic congressman at Jackson's request, raising more potential ethical and questions for Jackson. Jackson apologized for the relationship, referring to it as a private matter. Jackson denied the Senate seat allegations, however.

After President Obama vacated his Senate seat in 2008, Blagojevich had sole authority to appoint his successor.

FBI interviewed Luis Gutierrez in 2008 about Rezko deal

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When Tony Rezko was on trial for corruption under Rod Blagojevich, the feds secretly sat down with a sitting U.S. Congressman with some questions.

The FBI queried U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez in the spring of 2008 about free upgrades he received on a riverfront town house he bought from Rezko. The unit cost less than his neighbors and sold for 40 percent more than for what he bought it.

Read details here: Gutierrez interview

Convicted businessman Tony Rezko is scheduled to be sentenced in January for his crimes under Rod Blagojevich, likely putting to rest any speculation that he might testify at the former governor's retrial.

A federal judge set the sentencing date of Jan. 28 this morning at the request of Rezko's attorney.

Defense lawyer Joseph Duffy had said that Rezko, who has been cooperating since after his June 2008 conviction, was ready and willing to tesitfy. Today, there was nothing said on the record regarding the possibility of his testimony.

However, prosecutors have been reluctant to put Rezko on the stand, sources have said.
Prosecutors have publicly said they expect the retrial to be shorter -- an unlikely situation if the baggage-heavy Rezko was to testify.

Typically, defendants do not ask to be sentenced until their cooperation is completed, so that they can reap the benefits of working with the government.

Rod Blagojevich goes nuts -- updated

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Or, nuts go for Blago.
Either way, it wasn't a mirage. That was indeed former Gov. Rod Blagojevich last night, pitching pistachios in a commercial that aired during game four of the World Series.

In the shot, Illinois' former chief executive is handed a black briefcase by a shady character, Blagojevich opens it and out pours hundreds of pistachios.
He helps himself to one as a voiceover deems: "Rod Blagojevich does it innocently."

Blagojevich's publicity agent, Glen Selig, put out a release about the commercial today and confirms that the former governor has signed on as a pitchman for Wonderful Pistachios and its "Get Crackin'" campaign. He shares the distinction with the punchy "Jersey Shore" star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, who was recently arrested on disorderly conduct charges.

Selig did not mention Blagojevich's compensation for the commercial. (Selig could not immediately be reached for comment).
Blagojevich will be using public funds to pay for his defense because he has been deemed indigent after attorneys drained a $2.8 million campaign fund to bankroll his first trial. In August, Blagojevich was convicted of one count of lying to the FBI and faces retrial in April on 23 remaining counts.

***Update*** Selig says Blagojevich's salary from the commercial will not go toward legal bills but will help Blagojevich pay his house bills as he's been out of work since the Illinois Legislature booted him from office in January of 2009.
"I can't disclose how much the governor is being paid," Selig said. "The governor needs money to pay the mortgage. That is where the money is going. He lost his job after he was charged."

Blagojevich spoke only in the news release.

"The contents in the suitcase are like the accusations against me--they're nuts," Blagojevich says in Selig's statement. "I'd been eating these pistachios and enjoying them well before they asked me to do a commercial."

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