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Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

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Day three of Rod Blagojevich's testimony begins today as the defense continues to give jurors its own take on the prosecution's various shakedown charges.

The government outlined five major shakedown allegations and Blagojevich last week testified about two of them.

The defense has yet to tackle the weightiest charge -- that the ex-gov attempted to sell President Obama's Senate seat. That's likely among the last allegations Blagojevich will discuss.

Last week, Judge James Zagel ruled that Blagojevich could testify that he really wanted to appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat in exchange for a legislative package. But Zagel said he was unlikely to get in any of the recordings that support the theory. Why? Zagel said he didn't believe it. The defense repeatedly argued to get in this point, noting that it wanted the jury to decide whether it was believable.

Whether he plays new tapes -- Blagojevich has much explaining to do when it comes to the Senate seat. He must answer various tapes -- including one where he's heard telling his brother to meet with a donor, and instructing that he wants something "tangible up, front."

Blagojevich retrial: Day 15 -- Are we nearing the end?

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The prosecution's case continued at a rapid clip last week, with the government trimming witnesses, testimony and tapes.

The government, having re-focused its case squarely on the Senate seat and four other shakedown allegations, has hinted that it could very well wrap up by week's end.

The major witnesses remaining include racetrack owner Johnny Johnston, road building executive Gerry Krozel and Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon. We're not likely to see onetime national fund-raiser Joe Cari. If Lon Monk takes the stand, sources said, his testimony would be limited compared to the ex-governor's first trial, with his focus on the racetrack shakedown allegation.

Today: John Wyma's testimony continues. He has yet to undergo cross examination.

Blagojevich trial: Day 27 -- Closing arguments

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How did we get here so fast? Rod Blagojevich's public corruption trial, one of the most significant trials in Chicago history, has breezed by. Here we are already at closing arguments.

By comparison, the prosecution's case in the trial of businessman Tony Rezko lasted nine weeks, compared to six weeks in the trial of the "big fish," Blagojevich. Jury selection, testimony, playing of tapes and defense in Rod Blagojevich's case totaled 26 days (before today). In Rezko's case, one witness, Stuart Levine, was on the stand for parts of 15 days.
Rezko also did not put on a defense case.

Last week recap:

Bombshell news on Tuesday: Rod Blagojevich's lawyers told U.S. District Judge James Zagel that despite the repeated promises, the former governor would not take the stand.
Prosecutors appeared shocked.
Blagojevich and his lawyers learned through prep that he just couldn't withstand what was promised to be withering cross examination.

Before that, Robert Blagojevich gave compelling testimony from the stand, repeatedly denying any intent to help his brother sell the U.S. Senate seat and minimizing Indian fund-raisers as clumsy, unsophisticated, keystone cops who offered $6 million for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s appointment.

Up today:
1. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner gives a 2-2 1/2 hour summation
2. Robert Blagojevich lawyer Michael Ettinger closes for about one hour
3. Sam Adam Jr. talks for about 2 1/2 hours for Rod Blagojevich
4. Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar gives a one hour rebuttal.

Blagojevich trial: Day 24 -- THE DEFENSE BEGINS

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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

Blagojevich trial: Day 22 and week five recap

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Week number five in Rod Blagojevich's trial featured another series of profanity-laced recordings.
Blagojevich gives his take on voters who gave him a 13 percent approval rating:
"F---- all of you."
His wife, Patti Blagojevich, is heard on a conference call urging advisers to "Hold up that f------ Cubs s---!" Blagojevich is also heard on tape being informed he's on tape: "Recordings of me?"
He says if Lisa Madigan and Jesse Jackson Jr. were both drowning "I'd save Jesse." Then describes Jackson this way: Click here

Up this week:
1. Blagojevich longtime friend and former Congressional chief of staff John Wyma is slotted to take the stand.
2. The judge will hold a hearing to discuss the release of jurors' names.
3. The prosecution will likely rest its case Tuesday.
4. The defense begins its case mid-week.

Blagojevich trial: Day 19 and last week's recap

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Last week ended with a new revelation about the Blagojevich family: a $400,000 bill on high-end suits, designer ties, furs, shoes and even fancy underwear. The family spent more on fine clothing than on its mortgage, child care or tuition in the years Rod Blagojevich served as governor, according to testimony.
As the fourth full week of trial concluded, prosecutors revealed they may wrap up its case next week -- much sooner than they had anticipated.

Meanwhile, jurors heard Blagojevich unleash jealousy and hatred against President Obama, they heard the infamous "f------ golden" recording, and heard testimony that Blagojevich referred to Alexi Giannoulias as a "mother f-----."

Some explosive testimony from union leader Tom Balanoff indicated that Barack Obama called him one day before the 2008 presidential election to give him the green light on Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat.

Two witnesses testified that Patti Blagojevich was paid by Tony Rezko's Rezmar for doing no work.

Up today:
1. Michael Winter, a Rezmar consultant, continues his testimony.
2. This week prosecutors are expected to put on Indian supporters to Rod Blagojevich who will testify about the ex-governor's alleged desire to extract a $1.5 million campaign donation from Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for a Senate seat appointment.

Blagojevich trial: Day 15 and last week's recap

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Week recap

Scores of recordings are played in open court, and Rod Blagojevich is heard lusting over landing a high-placed, high-playing job in exchange for appointing President-Elect Obama's friend to the U.S. Senate.

The recordings make clear that Blagojevich wants to make money asks for help choosing a path that's: "not stupid."

"I'm the governor of a $58 billion corporation, why can't I be ambassador to India?" Blagojevich is heard inquiring. He ticks through a list of possible ambassadorships.

On the recordings, Blagojevich turns up his nose at a job that would pay $190,000 a year.

He swears at his wife on one recording as she's Googling salary information about a union-supported group.

He gives his opinion on Obama not playing along with his plan to trade favors.
"They're not willing to give me anything but appreciation -- f--- them," Blagojevich said.

On Jesse Jackson Jr.: Blagojevich calls him "repugnant," and "a bad guy," deeming it "very very very unlikely," he'd ever appoint the congressman to the Senate seat.

Up this week:
Prosecution questioning of former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris concludes this morning.
Defense lawyer Sam Adam Sr. will cross examine Harris.
Next witness: SEIU Union leader Thomas Balanoff.

Blagojevich trial: Day 11 and last week's recap

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Let's see, last week started with a dismissed juror disclosing that people in the jury pool were reading and listening to news about the case.
Then Rod Blagojevich starts gabbing on the news, taking shots at his old friend's testimony. ("I couldn't help but think the shame that his father probably feels," Blagojevich said about Lon Monk).
That was it for prosecutors: they asked the judge to gag the former governor.

Judge James Zagel issued a warning to Blagojevich. But it didn't stop there. Over the four days of trial, Zagel either tutored or delivered a tongue-lashing to each of the four defense lawyers who questioned witnesses. As they pushed the limits in questioning, they tested Zagel's patience.

At one point, he ordered jurors out of the room so he could privately dress down Sam Adam Jr. Worse, Zagel needled him in open court: "Why do you do this?" Zagel asked Adam at one point.

Tapes were released that showed Blagojevich called his longtime donor Blair Hull "an idiot." Then there was the matter of federal witness Joseph Cari taking a dive outside the courthouse after he was knocked by cameras and the debacle in the cafeteria where a sandwich called "The Innocent (Blago)" was on display. Then pulled.

And ... so we're back today.

Here's what's on deck:

Witnesses up this week:
1. Ali Ata finishes his testimony.
2. John Johnston, horse-racing businessman/alleged extortion victim
3. Bradley Tusk, former deputy governor.
4. Michael Horst
5. Donald Feinstein
6. Dwayne Brusnighan

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