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

Blagojevich starts testifying about tapes, denies alleged racetrack shakedown

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Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Jumping into allegations Rod Blagojevich shook down racetrack executive Johnny Johnston, the defense is going through government transcripts.

Blagojevich said Johnston had promised a $100,000 contribution early in 2008. He was pressing Johnston to fulfill that commitment, Blagojevich testified. He also says buddy Lon Monk was doing most of the communication between Blagojevich and Johnston.

"My understanding was that he [Johnston] was going to fulfill his commitment and that it was due to arrive sometime before the end of October," Blagojevich said. "That was, in my experience with the Johnstons, they always fulfilled their fundraising commitments in the past."

The government alleges that Blagojevich was sitting on a recently passed bill, called the Racetrack or Recapture Bill, and wouldn't sign it until Johnston paid up. Blagojevich is now testifying that he was just reviewing the bill.

"The legislature would sneak things into bills in the fine print that would undo the things you want to do," Blagojevich said, calling the language a "poison pill."

Blagojevich's testimony is in direct opposition to that of key government witness Monk. In a question-and-answer session with Monk outside the presence of the jury, Judge James Zagel had the following exchange with him:

"Am I correct that your understanding of the governor's conversation with respect to Johnston was that Johnston should understand, even if you did not explicitly say this to him, that a prompter signing of the Recapture Bill would be influenced by the giving and the size of contribution?" Zagel asked.

"Yes," Monk responded, adding that he knew it wasn't legal or proper to do.

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This page contains a single entry by Lark Turner published on May 27, 2011 10:26 AM.

Blagojevich brings teenage daughter to court for his second day of testimony was the previous entry in this blog.

Blagojevich blames Madigan for Racetrack Bill holdup is the next entry in this blog.

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