Judge Zagel said he believes Blagojevich concocted the story that "his first choice" was to appoint Attorney General Lisa Madigan as senator as a peace offering to her father because it would have been legal and would sound good in court - as opposed to what Zagel believes to be true that Blagojevich intended to illegally profit from appointing Jesse Jackson, Jr., to the seat.
Blagojevich testified that he thought that by appointing the daughter of his main legislative rival, House Speaker Mike Madigan - even though Blagojevich did not like the Madigans - that Mike Madigan might stop blocking Blagojevich's legislative initiatives on behalf of Illinoisans.
Zagel said he did not buy Blagojevich's Madigan story when Blagojevich testified to it and he doesn't buy it now.
"In al honesty, I don't think the evidence supports the conclusion that the proposed choice was his first choice - it actually points in the other direction," Zagel said. "It is true that the defendant said so but his actions don't back up his words. The proposal that he later deemed to be his 'first choice' was treated as an outlier, maybe even a last choice."
Tapes of Blagojevich discussing the idea are "accompanied by extraordinarily unkind words, even a euphemism, for Attorney General Madigan and her father," Zagel noted.
"Defendant did testify that the night before he was arrested, his thoughts before bed were that, 'tomorrow' he would begin - emphasis on the word 'begin' -- his effort to appoint Lisa Madigan a United States Senator," Zagel said. "I think this is untrue. I thought it was untrue when he said it. I still think it's untrue [now]. I conclude that he seized on this particular [argument] before trial because it was one of the few moves available to him that may have been legal: appointing a qualified candidate for the senate -- which the attorney general was, in exchange for legislative votes for programs as opposed to putting money in his pocket."
"The defendant himself offers evidence that the Madigan deal was not his first choice," Zagel said. Zagel said Blagojevich said his first choice was appointing himself, though Zagel said he did not believe that either.
-Abdon M. Pallasch