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It's the first day of jury selection in Rod Blagojevich's re-trial, and he arrived at the Dirksen Courthouse just minutes before he had to enter the courtroom (though many reporters waited for him for hours).

He wasn't required to be here for the first official day of the trial Wednesday because prospective jurors simply filled out questionnaires. Today, they're in the courtroom for the first time.

Apart from a few curious bystanders, no throng awaited Blagojevich this time, though fervent supporter Patty Farley, a 58-year-old Chicago resident, was there to greet the governor as she was on the first day of his trial last summer. Farley was holding a handmade "Madigate" sign that she asked Blagojevich to autograph; calling over his wife, Patti, he obliged.

"You look wonderful!" she said. He smiled, gave her a hug and kissed her on the cheek.
"God bless you," Blagojevich replied before entering the courthouse to head through security.

"If Abraham Lincoln is rolling in his grave," Farley said, referencing a statement by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald when he announced the charges against Blagojevich, "it's because in his beloved state of Illinois, politics totally rules law enforcement."


Jury selection in Rod Blagojevich's retrial has started today with a group of 150 potential jurors summoned to the courthouse.

No in-court hearing is scheduled for the day but the potential jurors are now filling out a lengthy questionnaire, according to the U.S. District Court Clerk's office.

The judge is hopeful that actual juror questioning will start Thursday and end by next week, mid-week, said courts spokesman Joel Daly.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel has ruled that jurors in this case will remain anonymous until after they render a verdict.

Rod Blagojevich is not expected to show up today but will be "on stand-by" he said Tuesday.

In a Tuesday interview, Blagojevich said he felt no joy watching his last jury return a mistrial on 23 of 24 counts.
"I felt, this is what happens when you don't put on a defense," he said.

Lawyers for Rod Blagojevich accused prosecutors Monday of attempting to throw the former governor "into a boxing ring with one arm tied behind his back."

" ... It appears the only request left out by the government is that the defense not be allowed to use the words 'not' and 'guilty' in the same sentence," the defense wrote in a strongly-worded response to a motion from prosecutors last week asking the judge to ban certain arguments in the trial, which is set to begin with jury selection tomorrow.

Here are some of the defense's arguments:

• Blagojevich, lawyers said, isn't publicly misleading anyone about 'playing all the tapes.' Playing more could show the jury that Blagojevich didn't plan a "linear" scheme, the filing argues; prosecutors object that the number of tapes is irrelevant to the case and, besides, they don't need to prove Blagojevich had a linear scheme.

• It's their duty, his lawyers say, to question agents' competence in recording Blagojevich.

• If Judge James Zagel agrees to uphold prosecutors' motion to ban some of these arguments in court, the jury will think of the Court as an extension of the government, they wrote.

• The defense responded to a government request to bar any testimony or evidence about events after December 5, 2008, when the Chicago Tribune reported Blagojevich's lobbyist and friend John Wyma was recording conversations with the then-governor. The defense suggests the possibility -- though they say they have no evidence of it -- that the government intentionally leaked the information to the Tribune: "A far more effective argument is that the 'leak' came from the government's cup of water, so to speak." In a retort, prosecutors called this argument "absurd" and irrelevant. To read filing, Click here


"When we went into the deliberation room, we were very confused," said James Matsumoto, the foreperson in Rod Blagojevich's first trial. He appeared on WTTW last night, along with this Sun-Times reporter. I was surprised by a couple of things he said, including that the jurors didn't know they had a case indictment in their possession.

"It was days before we found the indictment, we didn't even know the indictment was in the evidence carts," Matsumoto said.

He said the prosecution wasn't clear enough. He said the defense, namely Sam Adam Jr. and Sam Adam Sr., put on a show.

"They tried to make it a little circus out of the performance, especially the Adams," he said.

Matsumoto though, agreed with a key defense move during the last trial -- not to put on an affirmative defense.
"I think that was the best thing they could do was not mount a defense," he said. "It's not up to them to say the governor is not guilty."


Rod Blagojevich, who has been uncharacteristically quiet, will make a statement from in front of his Ravenswood Manor home today at 5 p.m.

Is this a surprise announcement that he will find a way to circumvent his trial, like, by offering some kind of guilty plea?
"No, absolutely not," said his lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky. "The man truly feels that he is innocent."

The event is scheduled from 5:03 p.m. to 5:06 p.m., presumably in the hopes that TV will carry his statement live.

It is not a news conference. That means Blagojevich can say what he wants live (to the ears of a listening jury pool) but then won't take any questions.

Blagojevich's retrial starts next week, Wednesday, with jury selection. He has a hearing in court tomorrow.

Sorosky said Blagojevich might talk about some recent legal rulings involving Children's Memorial Hospital and a racetrack scheme. The defense is disputing how the prosecution wants to present that evidence.
Another clue might be this recently filed motion by defense lawyers: "SEALED MOTION by Rod Blagojevich Objections to the Government's Original Proposed Redactions in Recordings Offered for Admission."

Blagojevich has often portrayed the government as trying to keep him from showing exonerating evidence --including recordings -- to jurors.

Anticipating this move, prosecutors filed a motion this week asking the judge to bar lawyers from making that argument to jurors.

But that wouldn't keep Blagojevich from saying it outside the courtroom.

Blagojevich did something similar just before last year's trial, when he all but challenged U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to a fist-fight.

A press release from Blagojevich's publicist also includes this below:

MORE INFORMATION:
On April 12, news media outlet the Chicago Tribune filed a motion challenging the "Wholesale Filing of Pleadings Under Seal" to exercise its First Amendment and common law rights to gain access to Sealed Pleadings.
-Download Chicago Tribune motion www.prnewschannel.com/pdf/Media_Motion_re_Sealed_Filings_4-12-11.pdf

On April 11, Federal prosecutors filed a motion to further limit evidence the jury and the public sees and hears.
-Download Patrick Fitzgerald, US Attorney for Northern District, motion
www.prnewschannel.com/pdf/Govt_consolidated_motions_in_limine_4-11-11.pdf

Rod Blagojevich threw a Hail Mary pass Wednesday, saying he wants to cancel his upcoming retrial by asking to be sentenced immediately.

It left legal observers scratching their heads, considering 20 counts remain pending against the former governor.

"It's silly," says Richard Kling, a defense lawyer and Kent Law School professor. "He has no bargaining power with respect to sentencing. To say: 'I'm willing to be sentenced on something I'm already supposed to be sentenced on,' is really saying nothing."

Blagojevich's lawyers filed a five-page motion Wednesday morning asking to proceed to sentencing right away and avoid a retrial that's set to begin April 20, saying in part, that they haven't been paid. A budget crisis in Washington D.C. has recently meant public defenders would have to wait on payments coming from taxpayer coffers.

Kling said that's not a reason for abandoning a case.

"If he wanted to say, I want to negotiate a plea...that might be something the prosecution might be willing to listen to," Kling said.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel and federal prosecutors would have to agree to dismiss the remaining counts against the former governor.

"There's charges pending, the only way they get out of those charges is if the government drops them," says Michael Ettinger, a federal defense lawyer who represented Blagojevich's brother, Robert. Charges against Rob Blagojevich were dropped after the last trial. Ettinger said though it is imperative that defense lawyers get paid in the case.

In the summer, Blagojevich was convicted of just one out of 24 counts against him -- lying to the FBI. That count carries a maximum five-year penalty. Remaining counts could mean up to 20 years in prison.
Jurors in the first trial were deadlocked on the remaining counts. But among those remaining are accusations that the former governor tried selling President Obama's U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich narrowly missed conviction on the Senate seat counts, with jurors voting 11-1 on many of the charges.

You might have to help Blagojevich pay legal bills

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Today, we examine the possibility that taxpayers may end up picking up the remaining
tab on Rod Blagojevich's legal bills.

There is only $75,000 left in the $2.8 million kitty and his defense team hasn't yet billed for the month of July -- arguably the most intense month for the defense since the 2009 indictment.

During his trial, Rod Blagojevich's finances were summed up to jurors by his own lawyer:
"He's broke, man, BROKE! When I say broke, I mean BROKE!" Sam Adam Jr. screamed in his closing argument.
Perhaps he knows best.

The former governor's campaign fund, which is paying his lawyers, has dwindled to its last dollars, opening the door to tap into taxpayer money.

Read today's article: Click here

The Blagojevich jury is back for their fourth day of deliberations on the 25th floor of the Dirksen Federal Building.

Shortly after jurors gathered in the jury room -- which is separated from the rest of the building by a frosted-glass, locked set of double doors -- the attorneys and several dozen reporters gathered outside the courtroom for the trial's daily 9:30 hearing.

But the courtroom was dark inside and the doors were locked. A half-hour later, that was still the case.

Finally, Judge James Zagel's deputy announced in the hall that there was no business to conduct, and lawyers and media alike were free to go.

Reporting with Sarah Ostman

After deliberating for just a few hours, jurors in Rod Blagojevich's trial have made their first request: they want a transcript of the prosecution's closing argument.

After reading the note, the three prosecutors on the case looked at each other and laughed.

The request will be denied, said Judge James Zagel, since closing arguments are not evidence.

The 12-member jury's request was sent to the judge in a note, which was referred to in open court this morning. The note asked for the government's closing argument.

In closing arguments, Prosecutor Chris Niewoehner extensively laid out the charges in the case with an explanation of each count and what evidence the prosecution believed proved their case.

Zagel noted that the indictment in the case, which does go back with the jury, was complicated and repetitive.

"If they are unable to work their way through this without the statements, I expect this issue to rise again," Zagel said. "And I will deal with it."

adam2

Sam Adam Jr., standing with his father and fellow attorney Shelly Sorosky, was next to address the media after Rod left the building.

"We believe in those 12 jurors that are in there right now," he told reporters. "We believe that they listened to the evidence, they've seen that the government has not proved their case, they've seen what I said in closing statements ... that the governor, whatever you want to say about him, he's not corrupt."

Adam Jr. thanked his team and talked about the challenges they've overcome in the past year -- the volume of papers they've had to go over, their requests for more time getting shot down, his own inexperience in federal courts.

He closed by saying his client -- and his All Kids program, presumably, which the ex-governor himself mentioned just minutes earlier -- was responsible for the health of his 1-year-old daughter, who was born weighing 1-1/2 pounds.

"I love that man," Adam Jr. said. "My wife, who is here, and I now have a beautiful 35-pound child because of him, and whatever you say, I will go to my grave being grateful to him."

Sam Adam Sr. then took the mic. He, too, praised their legal team and then turned to his son's birthday.

"Thirty-eight years ago this morning, my son's mother delivered my son and I was standing right there with her," Adam Sr. said. "Thirty-eight years later I couldn't be more proud of this boy. Here he is, taking the pressure of the world -- this case was published in Paris yesterday, I'm told -- taking the pressure of the world and defying a federal judge and saying, 'I will go to jail if necessary to protect my client.'"

"I couldn't possibly be more proud of this boy than I am. I love him and I love Rod, too."

Sam Adam Jr. stood behind his father as he spoke, wiping away tears.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Holding his wife's hand, Rod Blagojevich addressed the media for about two minutes in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Building a few minutes ago. Here's what he said:

"Both Patti and I want to express our deep appreciation and gratitude to the many people, the men and women and young people, who've come up to us during this time of trial and have expressed to us their good wishes and have told us how they've kept us in our prayers. I can't begin to tell you what how much means to both Patti and me ...

"Let me also say from a personal point of view, having been the governor, how deeply gratifying it's been to hear the different people who've come up to me during this trial to thank me.

"A young mother came up to me just yesterday, thanking me for the All Kids program and health care for her child.

"The number of senior citizens who've come to court and flashed their free senior bus ride cards -- that's very meaningful, and gives me perspective as we deal with this very difficult situation. To know that while I was governor, real good things happened to a lot of people and that helps sustain me during this difficult period...

"Both Patti and are grateful to our legal team and all their hard work.

"Now is the period where we have to wait, and express our appreciation to the men and women who are sitting on the jury who've taken time out of their busy schedules, out of their lives, to do their duty.

"They're now the ones who will decide, make the decision. Patti and I have great confidence and faith in their judgment, their common sense and their decency.

"And ultimately, in the final analysis, Patti and I always have a deep and abiding faith in God. And ultimately the decision will be with the jury, the men and women of the jury, and in God's hands."

He and Patti then left the courthouse, taking no questions.

Rod Blagojevich: I don't need any aphrodisiacs

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Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After court let out, an older Serbian woman handed Rod Blagojevich a candy. Sam Adam Sr. asked if it was an aphrodisiac.

"I don't need any," Rod said, laughing.

He then claimed to have run a marathon in 1984 in 2 hours and 55 minutes. He said he ran six miles last night.

He's expected to talk to the media shortly.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

It's official. The case of former governor Rod Blagojevich is now in the hands of jurors.

They must weigh 24 counts against the former governor and four counts against his brother.

Before Zagel allowed them to go to the jury room, Judge James Zagel explained to jurors what to expect.

They must pick a foreman to lead the discussions. They may only communicate with the judge, if need be, by sending a note signed by the foreman. That note can never say how, numerically, the jury is divided.

Zagel then said he had one final instruction.

"The verdict must represent a considered judgment of each juror. Your verdict, whether it be guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous. You should make every reasonable effort to reach a verdict," Zagel said.

"In doing so, you should consult with one another ... discuss your differences, if you have them, with an open mind. Do not hesitate to re-examine your own views and change your opinions if you come to believe it is wrong," but do not go along with a verdict that you do not believe with, the judge says.

"Each of you should give fair and equal consideration to the evidence and deliberate with the goal of reaching an agreement," Zagel says. "Your sole interest is to determine whether the government has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt."

"With that," he says, and the jury files out. Court is adjourned.

Here are the jury instructions

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Here's the law that jurors must follow:

Jury instructions

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Judge James Zagel is reading the jurors their instructions. There are 120 of them.

Zagel reminds them that a number of witnesses -- including Joe Cari, John Harris, Lon Monk and Ali Ata -- have pleaded guilty to related or unrelated offenses.

"Their guilty pleas are not to be considered as evidence against the defendants," the judge says.

Recordings are to be used as evidence, Zagel tells them -- not transcripts, which were put together by the government to help the jury follow along. Jurors will be given a computer with all the recordings to use in deliberations, he says.

Zagel turns to specific instructions for each of the 24 counts against Rod Blagojevich. For each count, the judge reads a list of specific things the government must prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" to warrant a guilty verdict. Much is fairly technical.

He goes through a long list for count 2 -- conspiracy to commit racketeering.

"A conspiracy may be committed even if its purpose is not accomplished," the judge reads steadily, and later, "A group may continue to be an enterprise even if it changes membership by gaining or losing members over time."

Now and then, Zagel lists off a long string of count numbers to which a specific instruction applies.

"From what you've just heard, you understand why we give you written copies of the jury instructions to take with you," he says, acknowledging that there's no way the jurors can be absorbing all this information.

On one bribery count, Zagel defines the term "anything of value." The term can mean "money, property or prospective employment," he says.

The jurors are getting restless. One has her eyes closed; another just yawned.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

As the jury is brought in for instructions, Patti Blagojevich is sitting in the front row, knitting.

Over a break, Sam Adam Jr., who turns 38 today, said he's lost 32 pounds since May 1. He got on the scale yesterday, he said.

"My dad and I don't eat lunch," he said.

Someone suggested he celebrate his birthday with a cheeseburger.

"I want to keep it off," he said, running a hand over his suit.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Five jury alternates -- one man and four women -- will be sent home today. That leaves a jury of six women and six men; three are African-American and one is Asian-American.

These jurors, the last five picked during jury selection, are alternates and will not deliberate the case. It's what we thought to be the case all along, but the judge has just confirmed it in court.

"The alternates are the last five selected," Zagel said, adding that in the future he may consider "a more random selection procedure."

That means the following people will be sent home: a white, male mechanical engineer; a white, female legal secretary; a white, female hospital secretary; a young white woman who works in direct mail marketing; and a female, African-American nursing home social worker.

They will sit through jury instructions and then will be dismissed. They will still be instructed not to discuss or read news about the trial, in case they are called in to replace another juror, Zagel said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After all the commotion of the past few days, the Dirksen federal courthouse seems like an absolute ghost town today.

On the 25th floor, Rod and Patti Blagojevich emerged from the elevator holding hands. One supporter clapped weakly in the hallway.

"Where did everybody go?" the ex-governor asked, scanning the thin crowd. "Jury instructions," he said, smiling.

Jury instructions -- where jurors are given a list of legal definitions and rules to help them with their deliberations -- are expected to start a little later. It certainly doesn't have the pizazz of a Sam Jr. closing argument, but this set of decisions can have a big impact on the outcome of a case.

First, before the jury is seated, attorneys will hash out which exhibits -- transcripts, documents and other evidence from the trial -- the jurors will be allowed to bring into deliberations. They may quibble over some items.

We're expecting defense attorneys to give a statement later. It's Sam Adam Jr.'s birthday.

For nearly eight weeks, Rod and Robert Blagojevich were on trial together, but they sat at different tables in the courtroom. They didn't lunch together and rarely even spoke.

But after their long trial concluded on Tuesday, with the jury and nearly all the spectators out of the courtroom, Rod Blagojevich walked over to his older brother.

The two exchanged words and gave each other a long embrace that ended with the two gently patting each other on the back.

"It had been a long time," Robert Blagojevich later said of the hug.

To read the whole story, click here.

He yelled. He whispered. He argued. He paced. He apologized. He made jurors double over in laughter one minute -- and attempted to draw outrage the next.

Defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr.'s closing remarks in one of the highest-profile trials in Chicago history didn't land him in jail Tuesday as he feared. But Adam used every weapon in his rhetorical arsenal to end Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial with enough drama to try to cancel out dozens of damning secret FBI tapes that jurors heard in the last eight weeks.

To read the whole story, click here.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch

The prosecution finishes its rebuttal and Judge Zagel adjourns court for the day.

'Members of the jury, you've heard all the evidence and the arguments," he tells them.

He tells the jury it is especially important now that they avoid news reports and not talk about the case, and asks them to return in the morning for jury instructions.

That will be followed by day one of deliberations. Court is scheduled to reconvene at 9 a.m.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch

For the first time since Michael Ettinger delivered his closing argument yesterday, Robert Blagojevich's name is brought up in the courtroom.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar recalls Robert's testimony that he kept fund-raising and politics separate, keeping out of his brother's government affairs. But then, Schar said, Robert testified about a long list of occasions when he did mix the two.

"He's got an excuse for every one," Schar said. "It's OK because my brother asked me to ... It's OK because it's Mary Stewart's relative ... It's OK because I was trying to be courteous to a guy who was very likeable."

"There is no doubt defendant Blagojevich dragged his brother into this bribery scheme," he says, referring to Robert's charges surrounding the U.S. Senate seat.

Schar also tackles Adam's earlier remark that Blagojevich paid $500,000 in federal taxes while he was governor.

"This concept that he paid a bunch of money to taxes," the prosecutor says. "There's no special tax rate for defendant Blagojevich. He paid his fair share."

And he recalls the last tape Adam played in his closing argument, which suggested that Blagojevich's inner circle was trying to "take him down."

"There's a conspiracy of liars," Schar says. "Everyone's lying to frame defendant Blagojevich .... It's one of the great frame-ups of all time."

"What's amazing about this massive conspiracy, not only are these people lying, they somehow managed to get defendant Blagojevich on the tapes you've heard to frame himself!" he says. "Somehow they've managed to do that."

"And worse, he has a motive to commit these crimes!" he says, recalling testimony that Blagojevich was deep in debt and worried about his future career.

"The evidence in this case has proven both these defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Schar concluded. "We ask that you provide a guilty verdict on all counts. The time for accountability for these crimes is now."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich has "more training in criminal background than the average lawyer," and yet the defense portrays him as a victim of circumstance who was unaware he was doing anything wrong, prosecutor Reid Schar argues.

"Somehow he is the accidentally corrupt governor? I mean, come on. Come on," Schar says, his voice rising a little.

"He is the decision maker. He is the governor," the prosecutor said. "He is the one who makes the ultimate decision."

Blagojevich is staring at Schar, resting on his elbows with his hands clasped.

Earlier, Schar hit back at Sam Adam Jr.'s argument that Blagojevich's alleged crimes are "all talk."

"The crimes the defendants are charged with are crimes that involve a lot of talking," Schar said. "When you go to rob a bank, you talk about it for a while."

Schar called Blagojevich a "master communicator" who knew exactly how to give one message to people he was extorting -- including the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital, whose funds he was threatening to cut -- but communicated another message to the public about the cuts being budget savings.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch

Prosecutor Reid Schar argues that Rod Blagojevich knew exactly what he was doing when he tried to shake down a road-building executive, a hospital CEO, racetrack owner and countless others for campaign cash.

"He is not stupid. He is very smart," Schar said. "He didn't get elected twice ... by accident."

The ex-governor knows how to communicate in 30-second sound-bites, Schar says. "That's what he does for a living," he says.

So in conversation after conversation, Rod knew exactly how to extort and ask for a bribe without being direct.

Schar talks of Rod's power as governor, saying people under him feared retribution from a man "with complete control of millions, if not billions, of dollars."

"There's victims well beyond the evidence you heard," Schar says, referencing the people of Illinois.

Schar references a Sept. 12, 2008, conversation between Rod and Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon, in which the governor said he planned to raise pediatric rates but tells Magoon to keep it quiet.

"He decides to sit on one of his number one initiatives? It makes no sense," Schar said.

That's because Rod intended on getting something in return, later sending his brother to call Magoon and ask for money, Schar says.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald arrived in the overflow courtroom a few minutes ago. He's sitting with his staff, listening intently to Schar's rebuttal.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar's parents are sitting in the front row, waiting to hear from his son.

Schar, who has been on the case since the beginning, is sitting quietly at the prosecution table.

He's likely to unleash his own fury in his rebuttal after hearing Adam accuse prosecutors of hiding facts from jurors.

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