Durbin subpoenaed to testify for Blago

Durbin is a U.S. senator representing Illinois.

July 21, 2010 8:52:00 AM PDT
ABC7 has learned another powerful politician is on the list of witnesses being asked to testify at the trial of Rod Blagojevich.Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin says he has received a subpoena. Blagojevich's attorneys asked a judge Thursday to subpoena President Obama. Durbin got his subpoena a week ago from the Blagojevich defense team. It does not mean he will, but he might be called to testify, most probably about the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama.

Durbin says he had one conversation with Blagojevich about that and that he gave him some recommendations, and that was it.

Durbin's office says, given the former governor's previous antics regarding this case, it's no surprise he is casting a wide net, apparently from the president down to dogcatcher.

"I had one conversation with this governor, and I've reported it to you and to everybody else, and if he or the government wants to call me again, I'll tell you the same story I've told you in front of these cameras," said the senator.

Beyond Durbin, the Blagojevich defense really wants testimony from Barack Obama, who, as President-elect, said that he had no direct conversations with Rod Blagojevich about naming someone to the Senate seat.

Thursday's defense filing says the two men did talk during a governors' conference one week before Blagojevich's arrest, and that their top aides later talked by phone, in a conversation that was secretly recorded by the government. Whether that conversation involved discussion of the Senate seat is unknown.

But the defense also claims that Obama sent word through top union official Tom Ballenoff that top aide Valerie Jarrett was the President-elect's favorite for the job.

"There's nothing in there that's a smoking gun or a quid pro quo or even direct evidence of deal-making. It's stunning there's this much play over something so inconsequential," said DePaul College of Law Prof. Leonard Cavise.

Cavise says the defense evidence falls woefully short of compelling the President's testimony, and when the Blagojevich trial does get under way, former prosecutor Patrick Collins believes the government will de-emphasize Blagojevich's alleged sale of the Senate seat.

"It won't be a leading cornerstone because, 'A,' it wasn't completed and 'B,' I think emphasizing it too much by the government plays into the defense that Blagojevich will have that there was horse trading going on," said Collins, a former assistant U.S. attorney.

Some of what was in Thursday's filing was not to have been seen by the public, but because of the program the defense used in its electronic filing, it was possible to copy and paste and clearly read what was in the blacked out portions.

The judge called the lawyers to his chambers Thursday night for a discussion, which no one was discussing Friday.

"While it's an interesting story, and with the computer glitch, it makes people focus on it and the media gets excited, at the end of the day, it's a small part of the case," said Collins.

Regarding the so-called glitch on the defense filing, before the age of electronic filing of court documents, if there were words, names, or information not immediately meant for public consumption, someone would take a black magic marker or the equivalent and cover up what was not supposed to be out there, or file the whole thing under seal.

If electronic programs for the same end are not properly applied, the mask is lifted and the information is made public.


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