Judge tells Blago to follow the rules

July 21, 2010 9:00:18 AM PDT
A federal judge told Rod Blagojevich to "stay within the rules" as his corruption case heads toward trial.

Blagojevich is challenging prosecutors to play all of the wiretapped conversations that led to his arrest.

The judge in the corruption case told Blagojevich Tuesday the decision to play the recordings will be made by the judge and not by prosecutors.

Judge James Zagel - in a polite but firm tone - offered up some basics with Blagojevich standing before him. "Trials," Zagel said, "are designed to produce justice - not a winner or loser." And while he said he didn't want to equate a trial with a boxing match, the judge nonetheless used a boxing analogy to explain who's the boss in the courtroom.

Defendants don't usually have to appear at status hearings, but Rod Blagojevich came to court Tuesday, a day after calling prosecutors cowards and liars and challenging the U.S attorney himself to appear in court if he was "man enough."

U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald was not in court Tuesday because he's not personally prosecuting the case but Judge James Zagel was. And using a boxing analogy, Zagel firmly explained that there are rules in boxing.

"Those rules are enforced by the referee, not by the boxers. I am that referee," Zagel said in court. "I will not permit the legal equivalent of head butts."

All this has to do with the Blagojevich claim that prosecutors were out to block the defense from playing secret tape recordings that might be favorable to the ex-governor.

Zagel made clear again Tuesday that tapes for either side can be played if they are relevant to the charges, and Zagel will make that call.

"I'm very relieved. I want to begin by saying that Judge Zagel appears to be a very thoughtful man, a fair man. He's obviously well-schooled in the law," said Blagojevich.

The combative Blagojevich of yesterday was replaced by a more mellow Blagojevich today. Like yesterday though, he refused to take questions.

"With that, I'll leave it up to these guys," said Blagojevich.

Blagojevich's lawyers say they read a recent government filing as an attempt to block the defense from playing any tapes. But it's the judge who makes call - not the lawyers.

As for the Blagojevich rant, one of his attorneys conceded it might have been a little too personal, but says some of it had to do with what the government has said about Patti Blagojevich.

"Those were fightin' words. You can call him a dirty son-of-a-gun, but if you attack Patti, boy that's it," said Sam Adam, Blagojevich attorney.

In its pre-trial proffer last week, the government identified Blagojevich's wife as having accepted tens of thousands of dollars in real estate commissions alleging that she did little or no work for it. Mrs. Blagojevich has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

As for the tapes, the defense says it has about 200 hours of tapes that it wants to play. It'll submit a list of what it wants to play to the judge May 14.


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