Witness: Blago wanted cash for state funds

July 21, 2010 7:57:52 AM PDT
A witness in the former governor's corruption trial said he was uncomfortable with a phone call from Rod Blagojevich in which he believed the governor was pushing him to solicit campaign contributions in exchange for state funds.

Gerald Krozel, a prominent figure in paving and road-building groups, took the stand for the second day Wednesday.

In a phone call in October of 2008 between the governor, chief of staff Lon Monk and Krozel, Blagojevich says, "We got this end of year deadline. The rules change after Dec 31," in reference to the Illinois Ethics Law. "After first of the year...we won't be able to bully you."

"Bullying to me meant asking people for money," testified Krozel Wednesday. "I was really uncomfortable with that telephone call. But I felt I had to listen to what he had to say."

Krozel said he was "terrified" when FBI agents showed up at his door December 9, 2008, at 6:30 a.m. Asked why he lied to agents that morning saying he didn't feel pressured by the governor to make a campaign contribution, Krozel answered, "The FBI came to my house at 6:30, told me the governor was arrested at 6:15 in the morning. I thought they were coming to arrest me...I was afraid."

Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein seized on that and said, "You never felt pressure from Governor Blagojevich!" Krozel responded, "I sure did. If somebody asks you continually about money, you feel pressure."

Krozel testified on cross examination that the governor didn't make a specific threat but just seemed to tie fundraising to a proposed $6-billion road-building program.

Krozel told jurors Tuesday about a September 2008, meeting at which he believed the then-governor was pushing him to solicit campaign donations in exchange for turning loose state infrastructure funds.

One of Krozel's cement factories had been shuttered and other construction businesses were hurting. So, when Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich mentioned the prospect of billions in state money for new roads, he knew it could be a boon to the industry.

"It looked like, to me, a connection," Krozel testified.

But he testified that he felt uneasy about what he perceived as pressure from the governor. He said he'd earlier told a Blagojevich confidant he wouldn't contribute.

Krozel, 70, said Blagojevich outlined what he described as a small, $1.5 billion road building program and the possibility of a larger version totaling $6 billion in construction money.

His statements about his meeting with Blagojevich and the governor's inner circle contrasted with testimony from an FBI agent, who said Blagojevich told agents in March 2005 that he tried to stay "a million miles away" from fundraising while he was governor and didn't even want to know who was giving him money and who was not.

Two former finance directors of Blagojevich's campaign fund also testified that the governor was deeply involved in raising money.

Kelly Glynn, who was finance director of his 2002 campaign, and Danielle Stilz, who later held the same job, testified that Blagojevich attended fundraising meetings, asked detailed questions about who was reaching his fundraising goals and sometimes cursed and yelled when he felt a fundraiser was falling short.

Stilz testified that Blagojevich "had an intimate knowledge of those numbers."

"He knew them better than I did," she said.

During a break Wednesday, Judge James Zagel dismissed a motion by Blagojevich's attorneys for a mistrial based upon improper objections and rulings and the prevention of meaningful cross-examination. It's not the first time the defense has moved for a mistrial and it has been dismissed.

In regards to another motion, the judge said that the defense may be able to play their own recordings but that to play all the tapes they would like to enter would take three weeks and would be a waste of time.

"The material is offered in a way that makes it extremely difficult to screen it," said Judge Zagel. He said that by Monday of next week he would like for the defense to edit down the tapes to passages on specific dates and a reason should be made for why the jury should be able to hear the passages.

Later in the afternoon, the focus turned to Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and discussions with Indian supporters, at least one of whom says he was prepared to raise $1 million in campaign monedy for the governor, if he appointed Jackson to the U.S. Senate.

Rajinder Bedi testified Wednesday that he met at a restaurant with the congressman and fundraiser Raghuveer Nayak, who said he was prepared to raise upwards of $1 million toward the Jackson appointment effort.

In a later taped call, the ex-governor suggested to his brother that maybe Jackson should be put in play.

Other tapes played Wednesday show that Blagojevich was clearly not fond of Jackson but asked his brother, Robert, to set up a meeting with Bedi nonetheless to explore the fundraising talk.

However, that meeting did not happen because the talk in early December of 2008 was that the feds may have had secret recordings of Blagojevich.

Jackson continues to say he never knew of any scheme to raise money in exchange for a Senate seat. ABC7 Chicago was unable to reach Congressman Jackson Wednesday night for comment.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he sought to get a high-paying job or massive campaign contribution in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat that President Barack Obama left to move to the White House.

He also has pleaded not guilty to scheming to launch a racketeering operation using the powers of the governor's office, and to lying when he denied that he tied campaign fundraising to state jobs and contracts.

Krozel's testimony and that of the two fundraisers was aimed at convincing jurors that Blagojevich was lying at the 2005 meeting with two FBI agents and a pair of federal prosecutors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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