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

Recently in Robert Blagojevich Category

Written by Lark Turner

As it prepares for Rod Blagojevich's impending retrial, the government is looking to spare jurors from hearing superfluous exchanges caught on tape -- including a conversation between the former governor and his brother regarding their signature locks.
The defense has objected to omitting the call, where Robert Blagojevich references a donor's wife.
"She loves our hair, by the way," Rob tells his brother, according to the transcript. "Loves your hair and loves my hair and because it's all real."
The two go on to discuss travel over Christmas and upcoming fundraisers.
Prosecutors proposed tossing out sections from three other calls -- including one involving President Obama. In a call between Blagojevich and lobbyist and consultant Doug Scofield, Blagojevich complains about the position he is in following Obama's victory in 2008, calling Obama a "demi-god." The defense though wants jurors to hear that section.
In another call, prosecutors moved to block out a discussion of Blagojevich's possible impeachment on a conference call and what positions Blagojevich could ask Obama to appoint him to in exchange for naming Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.
The final redaction objected to by the defense deals with a discussion of Rahm Emanuel's appointment as Obama's Chief of Staff and what will become of his congressional seat.

Blagojevich trial: Government rests

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

The government calls one rebuttal witness for Robert Blagojevich, FBI agent Dan Cain, and played a couple recordings. The defense objected to the tapes, but the judge overruled.

One is a call from Dec. 5, 2008 at 8:02 a.m. in which Robert Blagojevich tells a Friends of Blagojevich assistant he doesn't want to talk on the phone.

"I'd rather do it on the cell, where no one can hear us," she says.

"Oh, I don't know about that," Robert answers.

The government has rested its case.

robert

After two days on the witness stand, a still-composed, well-spoken Robert Blagojevich spoke to reporters on his way out of the courthouse this afternoon.

"I consider myself to be an innocent man," he told a mass of reporters and cameras. "This whole experience has been a test that I hope none of you have to go through. And with that, I bid you adieu and I appreciate your interest."

Robert's attorney, Michael Ettinger, joined Robert moments later at the microphone. Ettinger had told the judge earlier that he rested his case if his co-defendants -- that is, lawyers for Rod Blagojevich -- planned to call no witnesses.

Many of the reporters' questions focused on that bombshell of today -- that the former governor likely won't testify in his defense after all, despite 19 months of proclamations that he would take the stand to clear his name.

But Ettinger repeatedly declined to talk about that. "It's really not my place," he said.

One reporter asked Robert, fresh off prosecutor Chris Niewoehner's tough cross-examination, what advice he would give his brother on whether to testify.

"Who am I to give him advice?" Robert answered, acknowledging that his relationship with the ex-governor is "strained." "He doesn't listen to me, you should know that by now."

"I told the truth, and if the truth is good, I did well." he said.

Another reporter asked if he had any more plans to work in politics.

"I just want to go home to Nashville," he said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

After news broke on Dec. 5, 2008, that there may have been secret recordings of the former governor made after lobbyist John Wyma talked to the feds, Rod and Robert Blagojevich decided to call off the meeting Robert had scheduled with Raghu Nayak.

Robert testifies that he made up an excuse to get out of that meeting, saying he had to be somewhere with his brother.

"It was an unusual circumstance and sometimes you have to make a judgment," Robert testifies. "And I made a judgment I was going to lie to him."

After the news about Wyma came out, Robert testifies, someone on the governor's team had the Illinois State Police sweep the Friends of Blagojevich office for bugs on Dec. 8, 2008 -- but Robert said he wasn't concerned.

"Having the place swept for wires and bugs didn't matter to me. We were doing nothing improper," Robert testifies. "I never directed it. if Rod did, I'm not aware of it."

Robert testifies that the order came from Chrissy Jacobs, a "politically connected" administrative assistant who was "very concerned about eavesdropping" and "a very excitable personality."

The fact that the FOB offices may have been swept for bugs is a new revelation. Ultimately it did no good, or came too late -- the FBI had bugs up already in the office, in addition to tapping numerous phone lines. And the governor was arrested the next day.

Also, this wasn't the first time that an Illinois governor had used state police to try to combat federal investigators. A top aide to now-imprisoned Gov. George Ryan had state troopers do an illegal sweep of that governor's Rosemont campaign office during his investigation in fall 1994.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Robert Blagojevich and prosecutor Chris Niewoehner are entrenched in a long back-and-forth over Robert's phone records on Dec. 4, 2008, the day of a key phone call between Rod and Robert about the Senate seat appointment.

Niewoehner is going over a list of attempted phone calls in harrowing detail. He puts up a chart that Robert's lawyer originally published that details all the calls made that day.

It's a long list. Robert tried to reach his brother over and over again, to no avail, sometimes more than once per minute. When that didn't work, he repeatedly tried to reach the governor's scheduler.

Robert gets irritated at the questioning. "I concede," he says repeatedly, as the prosecutor tries to get him to acknowledge each call one by one. "Let's not waste time."

Robert's lawyers originally showed jurors the list to show that Robert was annoyed -- and not thinking straight -- at a Starbucks, when Rod finally reached him and told him to elevate Jesse Jackson Jr.

But prosecutors are trying to show that Robert was, in fact, actively trying to get a hold of the ex-governor that day -- suggesting maybe he wasn't as distracted as he said when the two had that critical conversation about Jackson.

"If you're trying to make the point that I was dying to talk to my brother, that's not the case," Robert tells the prosecutor at one point.

As he introduced the exhibits showing the calls, Niewoehner read aloud Robert's phone number.

"Thank you for telling everyone my phone number," Robert snapped, looking down. That got a hearty laugh from the courtroom.

Judge James Zagel has called a lunch break. Court will resume at 1:30.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Robert Blagojevich is pinned down on a recording where he's heard agreeing that money is a big factor in the decision of who to appoint to Barack Obama's Senate seat.

"There's context that's required here, your honor," Robert says, looking to Judge James Zagel for help.

Zagel turns to him and says, "You have a lawyer." Robert says OK.

Later, Robert answers questions about his pushing his brother to try to get a Cabinet position as head of Health and Human Services.

Robert Blagojevich makes no apologies about egging his brother on.

"I'd be proud," Robert Blagojevich said. "It would be a good fit. If he said he wanted to be Secretary of Defense, I'd laugh at him."

While the witness isn't laughing, the courtroom gallery did. At the defense table, his former governor brother smiles big, moving forward in his chair.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Robert Blagojevich testifies that when he asked Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon to host a fund-raiser in fall 2008, it was not in exchange for pending government action that would have increased reimbursement rate for the hospital.

Instead, Magoon was merely a name on a list of prior contributors that Robert Blagojevich was trying to hit up for campaign cash, he testifies.

Robert said he was given the list of names by his predecessor at Friends of Blagojevich, and it contained only donor names and phone numbers -- no amounts.

"(Magoon), like many others, was a previous contributor," Robert Blagojevich testifies. Magoon said on the stand last week that he had given several $1,000 contributions to the governor. "To me, they were all the same, just names and numbers of people to call who were previous contributors."

"It wasn't your practice to go through the list and find people who had given at most $1,000 and then go ask them to hold a $25,000 fund-raiser?" prosecutor Chris Niewoehner asks. "Because it wouldn't make sense to suddenly ask people to give 25 times more than they'd given before, would it?"

Robert Blagojevich argues that asking someone to hold a fund-raiser is different than asking them directly for cash.

"I think that's a real difference," Robert testifies. "I didn't ask him for a contribution, I asked him to host a fund-raiser. If he wanted to."

Robert is accused of helping his brother try to shake down the hospital CEO for campaign cash in exchange for the governor approving a Medicaid reimbursement rate that meant millions of increased funding for the non-profit hospital.

Magoon testified for the government last week, saying he felt pressured and that the timing of Robert's request for a fund-raiser was all too coincidental -- especially when the governor had asked Magoon to temporarily keep the rate increase a secret.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Niewoehner questions Robert Blagojevich about his interactions with Anthony Freveletti, 0f the law firm Chapman and Cutler. Prosecutor Chris Niewoehner argues that Robert wanted Freveletti to host a fund-raiser and so interceded on behalf of his firm with his brother.

Niewoehner points to a transcript of a phone call in which Freveletti reminded Robert that his firm had been a "huge supporter" of the governor.

"No, that's a leap I will no way step into," Robert Blagojevich says this, taking off his glasses and smiling angrily.

Chris Niewoehner asks if Robert understood that Freveletti wanted one for the other.

"Yes," Robert Blagojevich answers. Pause. "And so do you," he says emphatically, lifting a hand toward Niewoehner.

Several seconds of silence goes by and Niewoehner appears paralyzed, just staring back at Robert Blagojevich.

"I apologize, that was out of line," Robert Blagojevich says.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

A larger-than-usual crowd of people and cameras gathered outside the Dirksen Federal Building this morning, the day when ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to take the stand in his defense.

With cameras flashing, Rod and Patti walked into the building at 9:30, just moments before court was scheduled to begin. "Good morning," the ex-governor screamed at the crowd. "Something going on today?"

Someone yelled back, "Are you going on today?" Rod smiled.

Rod's brother, Robert, is now back on the stand, being cross-examined by prosecutor Chris Niewoehner. Robert comes under fire for blurring the line between fund-raising and politics -- a line that yesterday, Robert swore fervently to always uphold.

Niewoeher argues that Robert Blagojevich tried repeatedly to line up jobs for family members of people writing big checks for the governor. He points to the fact that on Nov. 8, 2008, Robert faxed the governor's chief of staff a resume for Jennifer Wu -- the niece of David Chang, a Korean community leader and Blago fund-raiser, and daughter of a $10,000 campaign donor.

Robert says he followed protocol -- but acknowledged that "sometimes (government and fund-raising) bleed over."

"Bill Quinlan told me when the line got blurred, to pass those issues on to him or (then Chief of Staff) John Harris," Robert said. "So when I was approached by Chang with a resume, that's what I did."

"But David Chang could have sent her resume to (Blago Chief of Staff) John Harris," Niewoehner said. "Jennifer Wu could have sent her resume to John Harris... That's what most people do, don't they? They put their resume into the human resource system ...They don't get their head start of getting their resume faxed to the chief of staff of the governor of Illinois."

Niewoehner then said that Chang wasn't the only fund-raiser who Robert Blagojevich tried helping. The former governor's brother responded, "You're about to tell me, who else?" putting one hand in the air.

The courtroom gallery laughed.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After Robert Blagojevich came off with a fairly pristine image in his direct questioning -- military service, volunteerism, a business built from the ground up -- prosecutor Chris Niewoehner came at Robert with a curve ball -- two allegations that haven't been discussed.

Niewoehner is trying to show Robert wasn't serious when he told jurors earlier today that he never mixed fund-raising with state action or traded action to benefit his brother.

The prosecutor did that by referring to two conversations: a Nov. 5, 2008 recording where Robert Blagojevich suggested to his brother that he ask Obama to quash his federal investigation; and to another discussion in December 2008 that Robert hit up former state Rep. Kurt Granberg for money at the same time he was up for a post to head the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Prosecutor Chris Niewoehner opens his cross-examination of Robert Blagojegich by asking the veteran whether he thought it would be fair if, while in the military, he quashed an investigation in exchange for getting a job.

The question clearly throws Robert Blagojevich, who asks the prosecutor to repeat it several times.

Niewoehner then turns to a Nov. 5, 2008 transcript.

"If you can get Obama to get (U.S. Attorney Patrick) Fitzgerald to close the case on you, it provides you total clarity," Robert says on that tape. He is heard urging his brother to "horse-trade" with Barack Obama to get the feds to stop investigating him.

Niewoehner: "That's what you wanted to have happen?"
Robert: "As a brother, of course I did."
Niewoehner asks if he wanted that in exchange for Rod appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate. Robert forcefully says no.
Niewoehner: "Barack Obama was just going to do that for nothing?"

The prosecutor then runs down a list of not-so-hypothetical hypothetical situations.

Niewoehner: "You know it'd be wrong for your brother to ask for cash for his family in exchange for some political action?"
Robert: "Yes."
Niewoehner: "You know it'd be wrong for your brother to take some governmental action in exchange for somebody else taking millions of dollars and putting it into some organization your brother controls?"
Robert: "If he directly agreed to that? Yes, that would be improper."
Niewoehner: "Whether it's a campaign contribution or cash, that doesn't matter, does it?"
Robert: "Not in my mind."

Niewoehner asks if Robert would think it was wrong if someone walked into a room with Rod Blagojevich, dropped a bag of $100,000 in cash and asked to be named senator.

"He'd tell the guy to pick up the money and walk out with it," Robert Blagojevich testifies.

Sitting at his defense table, Rod Blagojevich looked touched, gently smiling and nodding his head.

Judge James Zagel has adjourned court for the day. Cross-examination will resume at 9:30 tomorrow -- with Rod Blagojevich expected to take the stand later in the day.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Jurors are seeing a visual representation of how all-over-the-map Rod Blagojevich was in deciding who to appoint to Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Defense attorney Michael Ettinger puts up a chart of various Senate seat candidates Rod Blagojevich was considering on Nov. 22, 2008.

There are six mug shots on the screen. A photo of Oprah Winfrey is at the center, along with the mayor's brother, Bill Daley, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, doctor and Obama pal Eric Whitaker, and others.

Then there are more charts. They show days of the week from Nov. 26 to Dec. 4, 2008 -- each with two to three different mug shots of candidates Blago was considering for the seat.

By Dec. 4, Jesse Jackson Jr. is back in contention.

"He was all over the place," Robert Blagojevich said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Robert Blagojevich just testified that Raghu Nayak, the man who authorities said was an emissary to Jesse Jackson Jr., said he would raise $1 million for Blagojevich by the end of 2008.

Nayak then told Robert Blagojevich that $5 million more would be raised for the then-governor once Jackson was appointed senator, according to Robert's testimony.

These figures differ from what the government has previously said. In the past, they've charged the Blagojevich brothers believed that $1.5 million was on the line for a Jackson appointment.

The Chicago Sun-Times first disclosed the dollar amount discrepancies last year.

On another, barely audible tape, Robert Blagojevich is heard talking to Babu Patel, an Indian fund-raiser, about the Senate appointment. It's a new call, one that hasn't been played previously for jurors.

"Money is not going to be a factor here," Robert is heard saying. He says he wants to "make that clear."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Over the break, Rod Blagojevich chats with his nephew, Alex. The two smile at times and the ex-governor even puts his arm around his nephew at one point.

It's a rare display of emotion between the two families. The brothers, Rod and Robert, don't lunch together and have not been seen talking to one another in court this entire trial.

Back on the stand, Robert Blagojevich recounts an Oct. 28, 2008, meeting with Indian community leader Rajinder Bedi in which there was discussion of "accelerated fund-raising" if Rod would appoint Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Robert met Bedi at a Ravenswood Starbucks to prepare for a Friends of Blagojevich campaign steering committee meeting, he testifies.

While there, Robert said, Bedi told him another Indian community leader, Raghu Nayak, would line up $1 million in fund-raising if Blago would appoint Jesse Jr.

Robert said he was "surprised" by the comment.

"I told him it was strongly unlikely, that Rod would never appoint him because he didn't trust him," Robert said. Then he steered the conversation back toward the steering committee, he said.

After the meeting, he testified, he told Rod what Bedi had said.

"He just totally dismissed it," Robert said. "We thought it was just a joke. It was outrageous."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

In a second tape played by Robert Blagojevich's attorneys, Robert and Rod are heard discussing Senate seat possibilities. It's an extended version of a tape the prosecution played earlier in the trial.

Robert, discussing the Senate appointment on the tape, says to make sure it's "tit for tat."

"You give something, you don't give anything away," Robert tells Rod.

The two discuss a number of different Senate possibilities. Robert tells his brother he's down on the Madigans: "I wouldn't deal with the devil like that." He's down on Jesse Jackson Jr., too: "He's a f---ing articulate incompetent."

Robert then said he'd go with Gery Chico, that appointing Chico would be a real service to the state.

"If you want an opinion, that's my opinion," Robert says of Chico. "He's (got) f---ing true-blue qualities. He's got accomplishments."

But Rod Blagojevich disagrees. He said he's leaning toward his deputy governor, Louanner Peters.

After the tape is played, Robert looks up at the courtroom, puts his hands in the air and with a touch of anger to his Southern drawl, says, "if anyone was offended by the vulgarity, I apologize. I didn't expect anyone to hear me."

Attorney Michael Ettinger asks Robert about his statement to Rod on the tape that "the only advice I can give you about (the appointment) is brotherly advice."

"I'm not a paid adviser, I'm not a paid attorney," Robert explains from the stand. "I'm his brother, and I'm just talking to him off the cuff."

On the "tit for tat" comment, Robert says he was only commenting on a political give-and-take with Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

"We had just attended a fund-raiser where he had gone at length talking about this deal he wanted to negotiate with the Madigans," Robert said. "The only thing I was advising him was if he did a deal, a political deal like that, then he should make sure he got some political benefit from doing it."

Robert then gets hit by a coughing fit taking a sip of water.

"Wrong pipe," he chokes out. He appears embarrassed and apologetic and asks the judge for five minutes. He repeatedly looked at his lawyer, coughing and holding up his hand, as if to say, "Sorry, can't do anything about it."

The judge agrees and calls a short recess.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

The defense has introduced its first tape -- a brief, maybe 20-second recording of Robert Blagojevich talking with his brother's general counsel, Bill Quinlan.

The tape got off to a rocky start. Someone pressed play on the wrong tape, leading defense attorney Michael Ettinger to yell, "Stop! Stop! stop!"

With the tape up and running, Robert is heard discussing the importance of keeping fund-raising and policy separate.

"One thing I've learned is you don't let the campaign guy do government," Quinlan tells Robert. "You just don't." Robert agrees.

Earlier, Ettinger asked Robert if he earned a salary while working for Friends of Blagojevich for four months in fall 2008. Robert said he did.

"And what did you do with 65 to 70 percent" of that salary, Ettinger asked?
"Gave it to charity," Robert said, earning an objection. The judge sustained.

Ettinger hen turns to another question: whether Robert was privy to conversations with Rod and his advisers about how to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Ettinger: "Did you ever talk to any of his advisers -- Knapp, Yang, Scofield, Greenlee, so on -- about the Senate seat and what your brother was going to do?"
Robert: "No, I don't recall those."
Ettinger: "Did you have any input into (who he was going to pick)?"
Robert: "No."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Robert Blagojevich testifies that he did call Children's Memorial CEO Patrick Magoon to ask him to hold a fund-raiser in October 2008, but maintains it had nothing to do with his brother's actions to increasing Medicaid reimbursements for the hospital.

Attorney Michael Ettinger starts by rehashing an Oct. 9, 2008, voice mail that Robert left for former Blago fund-raiser John Wyma. On that tape, Robert is heard asking Wyma his plans for soliciting a contribution from Magoon.

"I know that you're going to be following up with Children's Memorial ... just wanted to know what the next steps are and kind of what we're trying to accomplish there," Ettinger reads Robert's words from the transcript.

Robert says he felt it was his duty to follow up with Wyma about the request, but said there was nothing underhanded about it. Ettinger then asks Robert about a later conversation he had directly with Magoon.

Ettinger: Were you told to seek the contribution in exchange for government action? Robert says no.
Ettinger: "Would you have done that?"
Robert: "Absolutely not."

Robert is emphatic with these responses. As the questions are asked, Robert leans back in his witness chair, shakes his head, and then leans into the microphone with emphasis: "No."

Robert says when he spoke to Magoon about holding a fund-raiser for his brother, the hospital CEO did not seem put off by the request.

Robert: "He said, 'Well, I typically don't do this, let me check with the board.' ... He seemed in no way reluctant ... no way pushed back against me."
Ettinger: "Did he ever tell you not to call him back?"
Robert: "Not one time."

Ettinger: "Did you ever tell him, 'My brother's been good by you, have a fundraiser?"
Robert: "No."
Ettinger: "Why were you asking him for a fund-raiser?"
Robert: "He was a previous contributor."

Magoon, who testified for the government last week, said he has made contributions to Rod Blagojevich in the past, generally $500 or $1,000 per year.

Judge James Zagel has called a lunch break. Court will resume at 1:15 p.m. for attorneys -- jurors are off until 1:45.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Friends of Blagojevich was not faring well when Robert Blagojevich came to Chicago to help with the governor's fund-raising in summer 2008, Robert testifies. Of a $2.5 million goal, the campaign had only reached the $700,000 mark.

The campaign got turned down often for contributions. "We got more 'no's than 'yes'es," Robert said.

Robert's attorney, Michael Ettinger, asks Robert if he was ever present for a political meeting at the Thompson Center or the governor's mansion in Springfield between Aug. 1, 2008 -- when he came to work for FOB -- and Dec. 9, 2008 -- the day of the arrests.

"No," Robert says. "I think (Rod) made it a deliberate point to keep it separate from that."

Ettinger asks if anyone ever asked Robert for his advice about politics.
"Nnnno," Robert said, smiling.
Ettinger: "As of Aug. 1, 2008, did you know very much about Illinois politics?"
Robert: "No."
Ettinger: "Did you ever think of running for office anywhere?"
Robert: "No," he said, snapping his head forward.

Ettinger ticks down the list of people who the ex-governor allegedly shook down for cash.

Ettinger: "Did you ever have a conversation about fund-raising with (racetrack owner) John Johnston?"
Robert: "No."
Ettinger: "(Road-building executive) Gerry Krozel?"
Robert: "No."
Ettinger: "(Chicago businessman) Blair Hull?"
Robert: "No."

Ettinger asks who typically would have these conversations, if not Robert. That was Lon Monk, Robert says, adding that he would just call Monk to check in.

"You're basically a score-keeper," Ettinger said.
"I'm a score-keeper, yes," Robert said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Robert Blagojevich testifies that he returned to Chicago in the summer of 2008 to help out again with his brother's fund-raising.

Before getting started on Aug. 1, 2008, he said he met with Rod's general counsel, Bill Quinlan, to go over the rules of fund-raising. That meeting took place at the Friends of Blagojevich office.

Robert said the "bottom line," he was told, was to never condition a donation on governmental action, like a contract or vote.

"I was told never to tie the two and I never did," Robert Blagojevich said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Robert Blagojevich testifies that he decided to start a real estate business after watching a late-night infomercial on a college hunting trip with his son.

It makes for a funny moment in the courtroom as Robert admits to getting suckered into paying $300 for a book/CD set about how to begin a business.

"He got me for the $300," Robert says to laughter.

Robert was working as CEO of a Tampa bank at the time, but decided to start buying apartment complexes for a career change. He now runs business out of Nashville, he said.

Rod is watching his brother without expression, his left elbow leaning on the defense table.

The testimony moves on to Robert's participation in his brother's campaign. Robert testifies that he came to Chicago in the summer of 2006 at Rod's request, and was in town through November, on and off, to help with his campaign.

"I thought it would be the right thing to do as his brother to come up and help him," Robert said.

During that time, Robert canvassed neighborhoods, put up signs, did robo-calling and fund-raised for Friends of Blagojevich, he said.

Ettinger asks who was running the campaign at that point; Robert says it was Lon Monk.
Ettinger asks how he had met Monk.

It must have been at Rod's wedding -- "whenever that was," Robert says sharply.

At that, Rod leans back in his chair and smiles, pointing index fingers of both hands toward his brother.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Robert Blagojevich, dressed in a dark suit and red and blue tie, took the stand a little while ago. At beginning of his testimony, he was asked if he had any siblings. "I have one brother. Rod," he said.

The words rang loudly in the courtroom, where his brother sat just feet away at the defense table, looking right at Robert with a slight smile on his face.

Robert's attorney, Michael Ettinger, asked with a smile whether there was a stipulation to identity.

"It's stipulated," said Judge James Zagel, also smiling.

We're going through Robert's history -- and resume -- quite closely. With at least one veteran on the jury, Ettinger is paying special attention to Robert's expansive military history.

Ettinger asks Robert about his political affiliation -- Republican, all his life -- and experience with fund-raising. He never did any, he said, until he started volunteering for the Red Cross.

Robert looks serious as he answers questions, doesn't smile much, if at all. He's giving the answers straight.

Ettinger is trying to draw contrasts with the brothers, showing that Robert Blagojevich earned a scholarship, served his country, was active in the Red Cross and was a self-made businessman. He didn't need Rod Blagojevich -- or the schemes he's accused of taking part in, the defense is trying to show the jury.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

When Rod Blagojevich walked into the courthouse this morning, he took off his belt for security. He held it while looking at the media from afar, pretending to hit someone with it: "if I'm bad," he said.

Upstairs in the courtroom, Julie Blagojevich, the wife of brother Robert Blagojevich, has just wrapped up her brief testimony as the defense's first witness.

Before taking the stand, Julie sat in the front row of the courtroom. Her son, Alex, sat next to her with a comforting arm around his mom.

In her testimony, Julie said her family and Rod and Patti were not close; they saw each other once a year and talked a few times a year. Rod asked Robert over the July 4, 2008 holiday if he'd help with his campaign.

Julie said she went out to dinner with Rod and Patti and asked about the swirling federal investigation.

"My impression ... To the best of their ability, to their knowledge, the federal investigation was behind them," she said.

Julie told Robert he could do it, but told him not to take a salary because of possible headlines.

"Did you need the money?" defense attorney Cheryl Schroeder asked.
"No," Julie said. "I felt like Rod did not know Rob. It was a chance for them to grow closer, perhaps."

Julie also set up the scene for Dec. 4, 2008 conversation -- one where her husband is accused of conspiring on the phone with his brother about appointing someone to Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Julie said they were at Starbucks. It was one of three times she had been out all winter because of foot surgery. She said the coffee shop was crowded, busy and noisy at the time.

The defense didn't get into the call with Julie. Robert Blagojevich is now on the stand answering biographical questions -- particularly about his schooling and his military history, all information that portrays him as an upstanding citizen.

Blagojevich trial: Day 24 -- THE DEFENSE BEGINS

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


After six weeks of a prosecution case highlighted by dozens of recordings and nearly 30 witnesses, the defense case begins in Rod Blagojevich's trial today with the testimony of Robert Blagojevich and his wife.

Julie Blagojevich is expected to first take the stand this morning, followed by her husband, who worked as Rod Blagojevich's campaign finance chair from August 2008 until the former governor's Dec. 9th arrest. Their testimony is likely to take the entirety of the day and cross examination could move into Tuesday. (Read: "The Other Mrs. Blagojevich.")

Julie and Robert Blagojevich spoke exclusively with the Chicago Sun-Times last year where they described how Robert first decided to work for his brother, the relationship between the families and the impact the case has had on their lives.

"I am frustrated with the government because I believe he is being held hostage by them," Julie Blagojevich said of her husband. "I believe that they indicted Rob to get his brother to plead. ... "We knew about allegations, and we knew about investigations. Rod assured us that he was not doing anything wrong. We understood that the allegations were really behind him, the investigation was really behind him."

Julie Blagojevich is expected to testify about the intrusion of FBI recordings Robert Blagojevich's phone line ("It's just a horrifying, sick, sick feeling.") -- by her account, even when she or her son were on the phone and there was no reason for authorities to listen in. Robert Blagojevich has maintained his innocence, saying the government hijacked his life, dragging him into a criminal case even though he's done nothing wrong. He's charged in five counts.

Here's a primer on the two brothers, and their differences: Brothers Grim

Defense: No express quid pro quo with hospital

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

Reporting with Sarah Ostman

In cross examination, defense lawyers try to show that no one expressly told CEO Patrick Magoon that state money for Children's Memorial Hospital would only flow if he made a campaign contribution Rod Blagojevich..

Magoon was also a member of an Illinois Hospital Association PAC, which in the past had donated $500,000 to Rod Blagojevich, he admitted under questioning by Sam Adam Jr

Adam asked if it was true that it was only after Magoon headed the PAC that Blagojevich asked Magoon to hold a fund-raiser for him for the first time.
"It gives a raise to the doctors, is that true?" Magoon agreed.

"Once Robert Blagojevich (called) did you at least contact the governor and ask if he really meant one for the other?" Adam asked.
Magoon: "No."

Magoon testified that the hospital did eventually get its rate increase -- the following January.

Magoon admitted in cross examination by Robert Blagojevich's lawyer Michael Ettinger that the governor's brother never brought up the potential state money for the hospital in his phone call.

"He didn't threaten you to do anything, did he sir?" Ettinger asked.

"No," said Magoon.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Robert Blagojevich was not present for key conversations in which Rod Blagojevich and his advisers discussed a replacement for Barack Obama's Senate seat, his attorneys have argued.

When former Deputy Gov. Bob Greenlee put together a list of qualifications for that Senate appointment, Robert was not consulted, Greenlee said. Nor was he consulted on research regarding an ambassadorship or Cabinet appointment that the then-governor wanted in exchange for the appointment.

And Robert was not there when the governor's inner circle was debriefed about a meeting with union leader Tom Balanoff in which Blago requested a Cabinet seat, defense attorney Cheryl Schroeder noted.

Schroeder: "Again, Robert Blagojevich was not a part of this conversation, correct?"
Greenlee: "That is correct."
Schroeder: "No one called him during the meeting, correct?"
Greenlee: "That is correct."

Robert is facing five charges, all related to the Senate seat appointment.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Robert Blagojevich category.

Rahm Emanuel is the previous category.

Rod Blagojevich is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.