I-Team Report: Beyond the Tapes

July 21, 2010 9:03:11 AM PDT
The Blagojevich trial is still scheduled to start on Thursday, June 3.

The government rundown of evidence released Wednesday shows that a significant portion of the case against Blagojevich will be beyond the tapes.

It was just a year ago this month while vacationing at Disneyworld that Illinois' dishonored, disgraced, twice-elected, once impeached governor heard that he'd been indicted on federal corruption charges.

Since then, as Mr. Blagojevich has held court at his house; held court at court; petitioned the court to leave the U.S. for a reality show; courted public opinion on talk TV; and radio and finally, failed to successfully court Donald Trump.

While Blagojevich has spent the year doing all that, his pursuer, the U.S. attorney who could send him to prison for decades, has been preparing the case against him by listening to and cataloging 900 hours of secretly recorded tapes - both audio and video tapes. Prosecutors have been selecting and interpreting which tapes to use at trial.

But there is much more evidence beyond the Blago tapes: hundreds of boxes full of paperwork and hundreds of computer disks that each contains thousands of data entries, so many potential exhibits that the government has a 200-page index of documents.

There are 3 million pages of documents from the governor's office and from Blagojevich's campaign, including financial records and receipts, letters, emails and memos. They are records that prosecutors say link Mr. Blagojevich and his brother Robert, the chief executive of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign, together with other state officials and fundraisers who have already pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

As in most public corruption cases, the government will methodically weave the paper trail with a trail of people.

"They are talking about a lot of live witness testimony. They certainly have miles of tapes that they are talking about in the proffer but they are also talking about a lot of live witnesses, a lot of people who had conversations that were not taped who are going to testify at the trial, lots of documentary evidence," said Richard Kling, Kent College of Law.

Although their witness list hasn't been made public, federal sources say the top four names will be:

- Alonzo "Lon" Monk, Blagojevich's law school roommate, two-time campaign chairman, one-time chief of staff, ex-lobbyist. Nobody knows Blagojevich better. Monk already pleaded guilty in exchange for a probable two-year sentence. He will describe Blagojevich as a corrupt schemer years before trying to auction Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder.

- Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the convicted, corrupt rainmaker for Blagojevich'c campaign fund. Rezko will explain how he, Blagojevich and Monk held regular meetings to plan and plot making personal fortunes through state contracts, government jobs and board appointments.

- Christopher Kelly who committed suicide last September after pleading guilty to corruption charges in the case. Even though he will not be a live witness, Kelly's role in the alleged Blagojevich schemes will speak from the grave.

- John Harris, also a former Blagojevich chief of staff. Harris pleaded guilty in the scheme to sell Obama's Senate seat and will testify about Blagojevich's role in that attempted extortion.

The wild card in the case: Blagojevich's wife Patty who was named or referred to 96 times in the proffer and was named as a conspirator in the corruption schemes, although not charged with any crimes.

"They cannot force her to testify because of what's called a marital privilege so she can refuse to testify. She can choose to testify if she wants but in any event, any of the conversations that she had which were tape recorded they can introduce because she is a co-conspirator. And if she's a co-conspirator, it doesn't matter if she wants to testify," said Kling.

One part of the case has not changed in the 16 months since Blagojevich was arrested: his firm denial of any wrongdoing. As Blagojevich's lawyer has repeated: "The defendant isn't Tony Soprano. The defendant is Rod Blagojevich." But with the Sopranos a distant TV memory and Mr. Blagojevich now a household name will a jury know the difference?


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