After 23 days of testimony in the criminal corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the prosecution rested its case on Tuesday--a month early.
A Tuesday highlight: Former Blagojevich confidant and congressional chief of staff John Wyma turned state lobbyist tells jury how Rahm Emanuel called him in 2008 with a message from President-elect Barack Obama to transmit to Blagojevich: tap Valerie Jarrett to fill his Senate seat.
Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki outlines the road ahead in the trial at the Blago Blog. No court session today.
Blagojevich prosecution wraps
Hospital CEO, former fund-raiser testify on alleged shakedown attempts
July 14, 2010
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND SARAH OSTMAN Sun-Times Reporters
After six weeks of laying out evidence in Rod Blagojevich's trial, the prosecution closed its case Wednesday by revisiting an issue the former governor has always said is close to his heart: health care for kids.
The CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital, Patrick Magoon, testified that about six days after the then-governor promised him $10 million in state money for the hospital, he got a call from Blagojevich's brother asking for a $25,000 campaign donation.
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John Wyma, a former Blagojevich fund-raiser, testified Tuesday.
"I felt threatened; I felt at risk, and I felt a little angry," Magoon testified.
Magoon's testimony closed out the government's case, which ended more than a month ahead of schedule, featured dozens of expletive-filled recordings and the testimony of 27 witnesses. Judge James Zagel had set aside 17 weeks for the entire corruption trial.
The jury will return Monday as lawyers take care of evidence issues for the defense case this week.
Blagojevich said after court Tuesday he expected to take the stand in his own defense, and his lawyers still maintain they will call White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett as witnesses.
In testimony, Magoon said it was clear that Rod Blagojevich had sole discretion over giving the hospital the money and that he had sole discretion to take it away.
"To receive a call within five or six days from his brother caused me great concern," Magoon said. "But what caused me the greatest concern was that the governor had the sole power," to release the money that would help pay for pediatric doctors who treat children at the hospital. "I felt the commitment could be rescinded," Magoon said.
Magoon had testified he headed a not-for-profit whose goal was to provide care to all kids and said for years he sought more state funding to help pay pediatric doctors, a problem that left the hospital with a $23 million shortfall year after year.
He wrote Blagojevich asking for help. When he didn't hear back he called on onetime Cubs manager Dusty Baker to call Blagojevich.
Magoon then got a call from Blagojevich on Oct. 17, 2008, promising him state money but said he had to keep it private.
Assistant U.S. attorney Christopher Niewoehner asked if Magoon ever knew Blagojevich to want to keep quiet on an initiative for health care. Magoon said no.
In cross-examination, defense lawyers tried to show that no one expressly told Magoon that state money for Children's Memorial Hospital would flow only if he contributed to Blagojevich.
"Once Robert Blagojevich [called] did you at least contact the governor and ask if he really meant one for the other?" Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr asked.
Magoon told 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.
Magoon testified that the hospital eventually got the money -- through increased Medicaid reimbursement rates -- the following January, more than a month after Blagojevich was arrested.
Earlier in the day, jurors heard from lobbyist John Wyma, a former Blagojevich fund-raiser and congressional chief of staff who testified with a grant of immunity.
Wyma said he sat in on a meeting in which Blagojevich discussed "getting Magoon for 50" -- a reference to demanding $50,000 from the hospital CEO in exchange for boosting the reimbursement rates.
"It made me uncomfortable," Wyma said, eventually prompting him to withdraw from the governor's fund-raising team.
Wyma testified that in 2008 Blagojevich was floating fund-raising plans that had Wyma growing "increasingly alarmed."
The governor told Wyma he planned to withhold a multibillion-dollar roads project until he got $500,000 in fund-raising from a road-building executive, Wyma testified.
Wyma also testified that he got a November 2008 phone call from Emanuel, an emissary for Barack Obama, who had a message for the governor about the president-elect's U.S. Senate seat: "He said the president-elect would value and appreciate Valerie Jarrett in the Senate seat," Wyma said.
In his cross-examination, defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky painted Wyma as a money-hungry political insider who had his longtime friend Blagojevich to thank for his $1 million-plus lobbying income.