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

Blagojevich judge: No evidence Obama knew about alleged Senate seat shakedown

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U.S. District Judge James Zagel said this morning that there was "no indication" then-President-elect Obama knew about Blagojevich's alleged attempt to trade the vacant Senate seat for an administrative appointment.

The defense had filed a motion asking the judge to check a transcript of an FBI interview with Obama for any evidence Obama knew about any alleged shakedown. But Zagel denied it.

"There's nothing that indicates he was aware of the asks," Zagel said. "And of course legally it's not necessary that he be aware of the asks."

Zagel said Obama might have had other things on his mind in November and December of 2008.

"In all honesty, it's quite possible that the victim of this was busy with other matters at the time," he said. "So basically, your premise that he was aware of the asks is not supported."

Zagel also denied a defense motion that wanted to prevent prosecutors from giving jurors timelines of conversations supporting each of their allegations. The timelines would be provided to the jurors after closing arguments as they deliberate.

The defense said the timelines were unfair, but Zagel disagreed -- prompting further outcry from the defense.

"Frankly, that's the prosecutors job in closing arguments, and we have very good prosecutors who I'm sure will give very good closing arguments," defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said. "I don't think they should be aided by bringing that argument into the jury room."

Zagel ruled that the timelines could be provided but that the government had to change their names, so "Health and Human Services Timeline," for example, would instead be something like "Timeline 1."

The judge was also in rare agreement with the defense against the prosecution in arguments this morning. They wanted to talk to the next witness, Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon, about why he stopped fielding calls from Robert Blagojevich asking him for contributions.

The prosecution said Magoon talked to his lawyer and then stopped talking the defendant's brother's calls. But Zagel, in agreement with the defense, said bringing in another lawyer implied an outside legal opinion. Instead, prosecutors could say Magoon talked to a member of his staff.

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This page contains a single entry by Lark Turner published on May 16, 2011 9:29 AM.

Blagojevich retrial: Day 15 -- Are we nearing the end? was the previous entry in this blog.

Blagojevich judge to defense lawyer: 'Stop, stop, stop, stop' is the next entry in this blog.

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