Aide: Blago said he made Obama seat deal

June 11, 2010 8:51:45 AM PDT
A former top aide for Rod Blagojevich testified Thursday the ex-governor told him about a deal for the Senate seat left vacant by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Alonzo Monk, a longtime Blagojevich friend and his former chief of staff, testified that Blagojevich said he made a deal with Illinois State Senate Majority Leader Emil Jones in 2008 in which Jones would not bring up an ethics bill in exchange for the appointment to the U.S. Senate.

When asked by the prosecutor if he believed Blagojevich was serious, Monk replied, "Yes."

Monk said Blagojevich thought the ethics bill that precluded people who owned companies that had state contracts of $50,000 or more from donating to politicians was unfair. Monk said Blagojevich and Jones, who would have to bring the bill up for it to be voted on, had a good relationship in the summer of 2008.

"If Emil Jones did not call the bill and Obama becomes the president, and then there would be a vacant seat... then he would appoint Emil Jones to that seat," said Monk.

Monk told the jurors he heard Blagojevich discuss the potential deal with Jones with John Harris. Blagojevich allegedly told Monk he thought Jones was going to 'back out on the deal.'

In 2009, Jones called for the vote on the bill after Obama urged him to do so it would not distract from his presidency. It passed a month before Obama was elected president.

Monk's was the first reference in testimony to an alleged deal for the Senate seat. There will be many more to follow.

Another first on Thursday- the jury heard some of what are expected to be nearly 100 secret FBI recordings. Those recordings are not being publicly released until witnesses involved are cross-examined. The tape is an animated conversation between Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, who's serving as campaign manager. It's only months before new campaign contribution limits will take effect and everyone of their campaign events has come in way under budget. In a loud voice, Blagojevich snaps at his brother to keep hitting up contributors. "Get on those lists", Blagojevich said, and "figure out how to get the money."

Monk also testified that he, Blagojevich, and two others allegedly concocted a scheme to make money illegally. He said that when they got to discussing how they could make money from his political power, Blagojevich would draw his hand across his throat in a slashing gesture to signal for silence.

Monk said he would "lie" when asked about the payoff schemes. He also told the jury that Tony Rezko, a Blagojevich fundraiser who was convicted of skimming campaign contributions and seeking personal kickbacks from companies, gave him $10,000 in cash 7 to 9 times, at least one time calling it a wedding gift.

When asked why he didn't talk to the FBI in earlier, Monk said, "Because I knew what we were doing was wrong and I would have been prosecuted for it."

Judge tells Blago to stay still

Before testimony began for the second day on Thursday, prosecutors complained that Blagojevich made gestures and comments while witnesses testified against him. Prosecutors said jurors took notice of the demonstrative defendant.

Judge Zagel told Blagojevich "not to express views by gesture, facial expression or comment. By in large this is for your own benefit." A defense attorney replied, "it'll be taken care of."

Blagojevich is accused of plotting to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by Pres. Barack Obama and squeezing people for campaign contributions. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.


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