The Blagojevich Trial Updates


The Governor Takes The Stand  To Defend Himself On Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Blagojevich trial: Prosecutors come at Robert Blagojevich with a curve ball

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 4:57 PM

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.

Blagojevich trial: Government cross-examines Robert Blagojevich

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 4:15 PM

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.

Robert Blagojevich: I was distracted, annoyed while discussing Senate seat on key government tape

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 3:31 PM

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Robert Blagojevich was distracted, annoyed, and just trying to enjoy a cup of coffee in a noisy Starbucks with his wife, who was recuperating from foot surgery, when federal investigators caught him on tape discussing the Senate seat appointment with his brother, Robert has testified.

The Dec. 4, 2008 tape — in which Rod asks Robert to set up a meeting with fund-raiser Raghu Nayak about a potentially lucrative Jesse Jackson Jr. appointment — is key to the government’s case against Robert, who is charged with this scheme in the indictment.

But Robert testifies he was only half-paying attention and thoroughly annoyed since the two had talked numerous times that day and had also attended a fund-raiser.

“I was put out,” Robert Blagojevich says of his brother’s phone call. In the courtroom, Robert smiles. Rod is looking over at his brother, smiling too.

“I thought he was being rude. He knew I was with Julie,” Robert says.

Attorney Michael Ettinger tries to point out that Robert sounded distracted on the tape.

“I’m meeting with him Monday,” Rod says of Jesse Jackson Jr.
Robert: “Nice.”
Rod is heard saying he has invited Jackson to an upcoming poverty conference.
Robert: “Nice.”
Rod: “I’m trying to get a story run in the Sun-Times about how close we are.”
Robert: “Nice, nice, nice.”

Ettinger asks why Robert keeps saying “nice.”

“I was trying to be polite and move the conversation along,” Robert says.

Robert Blagojevich on Rod, Senate seat: “He was all over the place”

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 3:16 PM

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.

Robert Blagojevich: We were offered $6M — not $1.5M — to appoint Jesse Jackson Jr.

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 3:00 PM

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.”

Robert Blagojevich: Thought idea of “accelerated fund-raising” to appoint Jesse Jackson Jr. was “outrageous”

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 2:45 PM

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.”

Robert Blagojevich: Sorry for the swearing — and for the coughing fit

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 2:24 PM

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.

Blagojevich trial: Defense plays its first tapes — Robert Blagojevich, Bill Quinlan on fund-raising

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 1:57 PM

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.”

Blagojevich trial: Judge James Zagel refuses defense motion to toss out case

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 1:36 PM

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Returning from a lunch break, Judge James Zagel denied a motion for acquittal filed by the defense.

Defense attorney Lauren Kaeseberg argued the counts against the ex-governor have gone unproven. “At best, what the evidence shows is an attempt to attempt,” she said.

Zagel responded that there has been sufficient evidence, particularly when taking into account not just the words on the transcripts, but the tone of voice of people speaking on the tapes.

The judge also responded to another defense theme — that Blagojevich was working under the constant eye of lawyer-advisers while committing his alleged crimes. While this might be true, Zagel noted, it could just be proof that the lawyers themselves were in on the conspiracy.

The motion for acquittal argued that the government has failed to present enough evidence against the defendants and the trial should be thrown out. It’s a fairly standard motion in trials — but one that no one expected to make much headway here.

Court is now in a short recess, waiting for the jurors to be brought in. Robert Blagojevich will be back on the stand when we resume.

Blagojevich lawyer: “Highly unlikely” that Valerie Jarrett will take the standBy

Natasha Korecki

on July 19, 2010 12:48 PM

Rod Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. said today it was “highly unlikely” that the defense would call White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to the stand but she remains under subpoena and the defense hasn’t completely closed the door on her.

Adam said he fully expects to call White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who has been under subpoena.

Rod Blagojevich, meanwhile, is expected to take the stand Tuesday.

Robert Blagojevich: I asked Children’s Memorial CEO for a fund-raiser because he was a supporter

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 12:14 PM

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.

Robert Blagojevich: I attended meeting with road-building exec, but didn’t talk about fund-raising

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 12:08 PM

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Robert Blagojevich said he was briefly present at a September 2008 meeting with road-building executive Gerry Krozel. But he said he did not hear any talk about trying to get a contribution from him in exchange for the governor’s OK of an Illinois Tollway project.

“What I remember from that discussion was talking to him about his ill wife,” Robert testifies. “I had been working in my fund-raising role for 40-something days, it was very new to me.”

Ettinger: “Were you there for any requests from Lon Monk to Gerry Krozel to raise money?”
Robert: “I have no recollection of that, no.”
Ettinger: “Were you there for the whole meeting?”
Robert: “Typically, meeting like that, I’m in and out.”

Ettinger: “Other than that one meeting, did you ever see Gerry Krozel again?”
Robert: “No.”
Ettinger: “Did you ever talk to Gerry Krozel again?”
Robert: “No.”

Ettinger: “Did Gerry Krozel ever contribute a nickel?”
Robert: “Not to my knowledge, no.”

Robert says he had Krozel marked down on his fund-raising lists with a likely contribution of “zero.”

“It was just so vague as to whether there was any potential there or not,” Robert says.

Robert Blagojevich: Never took part in fund-raising talks with John Johnston, Gerry Krozel, Blair Hull

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 11:33 AM

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.

Robert Blagojevich: I was told never to link fund-raising and government action “and I never did”

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 11:06 AM

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.

Robert Blagojevich: I thought helping Rod was “the right thing to do

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 10:37 AM

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.

Robert Blagojevich attorney: Robert an upstanding veteran, businessman

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 10:20 AM

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.

First defense witness Julie Blagojevich: Robert and I weren’t close to Rod and Patti

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 10:06 AM

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 on secret tapes: Here are the trapes

By

Sarah Ostman

on July 19, 2010 5:57 PM

Here are the audio tapes and transcripts for recordings played in court today, Monday, July 19.

11-11 Rob and Quinlan.docx

11-12 Rob and Rod 826pm.docx

12-4 Rob and Rod 819.docx

12-06 Rob and Rod 1239pm.docx

FOB_Mic2_11_11.7-18-20[1]-final.docx

11-11-08 Quinlan-Rob.wma

11-11-08 Rob and Patel.wma

12-4-08 Rob and Rod 819.wma

12-06-08 Rob and Rod.wma

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