Blagojevich Trial Update – Day 26 – The Media and Crowds Aare Waiting Outside The Courtroom

The press pit in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Building is packed to the gills as reporters wait for Rod Blagojevich and his team of lawyers to exit the building. We’ve been told they plan to talk.

Word is the team is now hunkered down in a conference room upstairs, possibly strategizing about what to say to the media. It’s hard to get definite word, though — court personnel has banned everyone from the courtroom area.

In the meantime, court security officers have had to bring out ropes to hold back the restless crowd of reporters and cameramen. It’s the first time that’s happened this entire trial. A mic stand is nearly toppling over with microphones.

“Still waiting,” the officers are telling us. “We’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything.” It’s been more than half an hour.

Earlier, Judge Zagel and attorneys handled some housekeeping and said court would reconvene at 1:30.

At noon, there’s still no sighting. But the crowd is holding its ground — no one wants to miss this.

Blagojevich trial: Rod Blagojevich signs autographs on courtroom break

Sarah Ostman

on July 21, 2010 10:43 AM

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Judge James Zagel announces that closing statements will resume Monday at 9:30. He says he will give the jurors instructions on their deliberations this morning, in private, after a 10-minute break.

“I plan to instruct the jury in the jury room, rather than bring them back here, to continue their duties not to pay attention to media,” Zagel says, “and tell them we’ll resume again Monday at 9:30.”

Over the break, Rod Blagojevich signs autographs.

He’s in the courtroom with one foot propped on a bench, signing autographs on his knee.

Rod Blagojevich to Judge Zagel: It is my decision not to testify

Sarah Ostman

on July 21, 2010 10:34 AM

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Judge James Zagel has the jury taken out of the room and then addresses Rod Blagojevich.

The judge asks him to state his name for the record. “Rod Blagojevich.”

Zagel explains to Blagojevich that it has to be his own decision not to testify.

“So now I’m going to ask you if it is your personal decision not to take the witness stand,” the judge says
“Yes, judge,” the ex-governor responds.

Zagel asks Blagojevich if he had discussed the matter with his attorneys.

“Yes, judge, fully and completely,” he says.

And you have “deliberated in your own mind” after discussing with your lawyers? the judge asks.

“It is my decision, judge, on the advice of my attorneys. I made the decision freely and voluntarily,” he says, speaking longer than necessary but sounding perfectly comfortable.

Zagel says he is satisfied and tells Blagojevich to sit down or remain standing.

“What would you recommend, judge?” the ex-governor asks.
“I would return to your seat,” the judge says without hesitation.

Rod laughs and moves through his lawyers, touching one on the shoulder. Still smiling, he sits down, unbuttons his suit coat, runs his left hand through his hair, and with his hands clasps, sits and listens.

Blagojevich trial: Government rests

Sarah Ostman

on July 21, 2010 10:27 AM

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.


Sarah Ostman

on July 21, 2010 10:09 AM

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

As the courtroom waits for the jury to be seated, Rod is sitting at the defense table, occasionally laughing and once waving to a courtroom artist. He’s fiddling with a pen, while talking to attorney Shelly Sorosky.

Rod is in a navy suit, Patti is wearing a summer dress and has a pair of dark circles under her eyes. She’s sitting next to her sister, Deb Mell.

The judge and jury have entered.

Sorosky announces that the defense rests, making it official that Rod Blagojevich will not testify.

After much anticipation, the scene was not a dramatic one. Judge James Zagel asked if Robert Blagojevich had any other evidence to offer. He didn’t.

In those seconds, Rod Blagojevich sat at the defense table, looking down. He neatly organized pens in front of his notebook.

Zagel then gestured to Sorosky, who stood up and announced it: “At this time, the defendant Rod Blagojevich would rest.”

The jurors all looked at the defendant’s table.

One jurors’ eyes widened hearing the news. Others, for the most part, remained without expression.

Blagojevich trial: On “decision day,” Rod Blagojevich arrives at the courthouse

Sarah Ostman

on July 21, 2010 9:36 AM

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Rod Blagojevich arrived at a media-frenzied courthouse around 9:30 this morning. But on this “decision day,” the usually outspoken ex-governor walked right past crowds of reporters and cameras.

Outside the courthouse, he shook hands with a cabbie, waved at onlookers and posed for a picture — but said nothing. When asked specifically whether he intended to testify, he did not respond.

Upstairs, the hallway outside the 25th floor courtroom is packed with onlookers. The ex-governor waved and said only, “Welcome to the trial.”

His lawyer, Sam Adam Jr., was asked if his client would testify, but only smiled and shrugged.

Sources say Blagojevich has not changed his mind — he is not expected to take the stand.

At 9:40, the media is still cordoned off from entering the courtroom — but the tension is already palpable. One reporter is sweating profusely, wiping sweat with a napkin. Another spoke of feeling unnerved.

A security officer just announced that whoever doesn’t have a ticket should go to the overflow room on the 14th floor now, because there will be no room.

The overflow room is crowded, too. The usually-empty benches for the public are filled with people, and new media faces are vying for precious seats at the tables. Even the jury box is full of spectators.

Judge James Zagel has been holding hearings for other cases this morning, but wrapped up that other business around 9:45. The Blagojevich trial is next up, in just a few minutes.

Finally, just before 10:00 — a half-hour later than usual — spectators have been let into the courtroom. A court officer announces to the chatty room that the judge will “not tolerate” people jumping up and rushing out once the action starts, and urges people to go to the overflow room now — clearly a warning to the media.

Blagojevich trial: Day 26 — Decision Day

Natasha Korecki

on July 21, 2010 4:00 AM |

After a night of wrangling, a haggard-looking defense team for Rod Blagojevich was ready to rest its

case without calling a witness Tuesday — but lawyers were told by the judge to sleep on the decision.

We’ll be back today, at 9:30 a.m. with a final public decision by Rod Blagojevich.

Rod Blagojevich attorneys Sam Adam Sr. and Sam Adam Jr. said publicly they were divided on whether to put the former governor on the stand. But Attorney Sheldon Sorosky later told me: “There’s absolutely no dissension among the lawyers.”

Ultimately, sources tell the Sun-Times that on Monday night, the attorneys and the former governor agreed that Blagojevich couldn’t withstand what promised to be a stinging cross examination. They were also concerned because during preparation he was reluctant to admit he made mistakes and couldn’t keep his answers brief.

Also factoring into the calculation: there was some concern that Tony Rezko might be called as a rebuttal witness by the prosecution if Blagojevich took the stand.

Sorosky conceded that without Blagojevich on the stand it closed the door to calling any rebuttal witness — Rezko or otherwise.

The challenge now left for the defense: Sam Adam Jr. told jurors in his opening statement they would hear from Rod Blagojevich. Judge James Zagel will tell jurors they aren’t allowed to hold the decision not to testify against a defendant.

Up today:

Blagojevich is expected to announce he won’t testify. If that happens, U.S. District Judge James Zagel, outside of the jury’s presence, will explain to him his rights and ask him if he’s sure of his decision and that he is making that decision.

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