Blago defense asks for trial delay

July 21, 2010 7:53:46 AM PDT
Defense attorneys for Rod Blagojevich asked the judge to delay the former governor's corruption trial so they can gather their witnesses.

"All of a sudden, the government cut their case short and says we're going to rest in the next day or so, which means that we can't these witnesses here. It's not our fault. It's the government's fault," said Sam Adam, Blagojevich attorney, on Monday.

The Blagojevich defense had planned on calling its parade of witnesses-- Valerie Jarrett, Rahm Emanuel, Emil Jones and others-- in August. Many of those witnesses need special security arrangements before they come to court.

The defense's motion asks for a one to two-week delay in the trial after the prosecution rests, in part, because the attorneys for some of those subpoenaed witnesses are on vacation and cannot be reached, and the defense says its ability for a fair trial is severely diminished.

"Fair trial is destroyed, practically. I would say it's 50 percent destroyed. You've still got the defendant to testify, we've still got Patty [Blagojevich] to testify, but without corroborating witnesses, it would be much weaker," Adam said.

It is not clear when the judge will rule on the motion. (Download the motion from justice.gov)

Tapes show contradiction in Blago's public statements and private conversations

On Nov. 5 2008, the day after the Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, Rod Blagojevich held an early afternoon news conference to discuss how he would approach the Senate appointment.

Blagojevich was unaware that the government was recording his phone conversations, at least five of which have been played at trial.

The tape of that news conference offers a remarkable contradiction between the former governor's public face and the voice on the phone.

The first person to walk into the news conference was former deputy governor Bob Greenlee, who finished testifying Monday against his old boss and then ex-chief of staff John Harris, who has already done the same.

Blagojevich began by hailing the Obama victory as the convergence of two historic moments.

"The realization of Dr. King's dream that we come together as a country that judges people by the content of their character, as well as the legacy of Abraham Lincoln," Blagojevich said at the conference.

But just a couple of hours earlier on the phone with advisor Doug Scofield, Blagojevich offered a different take on the president-elect.

"I mean, you got this historic, f-----' demi-god. He's a demi-god now, at least for now. You follow me?" he said.

And in the same conversation:

Blago: "I mean, I, I've got this thing and it's f-----' golden." Scofield: "Right." Blago: "And I, I'm not giving it up for f-----' nothing."

"Obviously, I'm interested in whatever insights President Obama might have with regard to his thoughts on the subject and that would have a great deal of weight on the decision I would make," Blagojevich said during the news conference.

In five recorded calls that day, all before the news conference, Blagojevich talked about his desire to win a Cabinet appointment, an ambassadorship, jobs with a foundation or non-profit, or something, he said, to "get me the --- outta here."

Blago: "Listen, the ace in the hole, just you guys in there, right?" Harris: "Right." Greenlee: "Mm hmm" Blago: "That final play is just, f------' yourself. You just send you."

"We're gonna be deliberate and thoughtful," Blagojevich said at the news conference

Despite public pronouncement, Blagojevich was already weighing the option of naming himself, and one hour before the news conference, he told Greenlee.

Blago: "I'm telling you, that Senate seat though, parachuting into that Senate seat, they're gonna ask me today, and I'm gonna say I'm not considering myself. That's the plan, you know, I have no plans to consider me. Greenlee: "Mm hmm." Blago: "Huh? How's that answer?

One hour later at the news conference:

"I'm not interested in the Senate. I like my job as governor. I have a lot more work to do," the former governor said at the news conference.

All this shows contradiction, but will the jury see it as crime?

"And what the defense will say is, show me the concrete results of all this stuff you've heard on tape. There isn't any. These deals didn't go through. He didn't make them. The reason he didn't make them is because he didn't intend to make them," said Prof. Leonard Cavise of the DePaul College of Law.

The prosecution argues that the tapes and testimony demonstrate there was real intent, and there were acts to further it which makes it a crime. That is, of course, for the jury to decide. But the defense attorneys claim in opening statements that Rod Blagojevich is "as honest as the day is long" doesn't work, at least for November 5, 2008.

Judge: Blago defense technique "waste of time"

Also on Monday, Judge Zagel told a defense attorney his questions were getting 'repetitive.'

In response to the line-by-line questioning of prosecution witness Robert Greenlee, who served as former deputy governor under Blagojevich, Judge James Zagel said, "I thought we'd been through this particular form of question."

During a break, Judge Zagel addressed defense attorney Aaron Goldstein's cross-examination of Greenlee. Prosecutors complained that it was "a bit of a sideshow" that has "exhausted the knowledge" of the witness. Zagel agreed it was enough.

"I'm not going to let you do it anymore. It's just a waste of time. If you think you can get something out of this witness, call him during your case," Zagel said.

Goldstein spent most of Monday's cross-examination breaking down a transcript of November 12, 2008, call, line-by-line and questioning the words Greenlee used in the recorded conversations.

"Do you know what a question mark is?" the defense asked Greenlee. He also asked the judge for permission to introduce a dictionary into court twice Monday to look up the definition of "could" and "legitimate."

"Could could mean possibility, correct?" defense attorney Goldstein said.

Confused, Greenlee said, "I'm kind of lost."

"I am, too," said Goldstein.

In another line-by-line detail, he questioned Greenlee's use of the word "legitimate" in the transcripts when he told the governor, "I think that is a totally legitimate ask" in reference to an appointment in exchange for appointing the Senate seat to Valerie Jarrett.

"What I understand legitimate to mean is commensurate, appropriate," said Greenlee.

Goldstein then tried to approach the witness with a dictionary.

"We don't allow dictionaries in court," said Judge Zagel.

Later on Monday, Goldstein started to ask Greenlee about being a lawyer and the ethical responsibilities that come with the profession.

"You can ask one more, and then you can sit down," said Judge Zagel. "Why don't you not re-ask the same question?"

The defense then rested and re-direct began.

Before Goldstein began questioning Greenlee, attorneys for Blagojevich's brother and codefendant, Robert Blagojevich, established that Robert Blagojevich was not present at the meetings where the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama was discussed.

After five weeks of testimony, the prosecution could rest as soon as Tuesday.

Once the prosecution is finished, defense attorneys will take their turn. They are expected to call Blagojevich to the stand. His testimony could take weeks.

Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to the corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade a U.S. Senate seat.

Judge discusses jury anonymity status

The names of jurors in the Blagojevich corruption trial will be kept secret until after a verdict has been reached. On Monday, Judge Zagel spoke about his reasons for keeping them secret, for the time being, including jurors' privacy issues and the fact that five alternates who are listening to the case will not have a say in the verdict. Several media outlets have asked for the jurors to be named.

Zagel also discussed the amount of attention the case has received and cited several emails and letters, including one in which a writer suggested voters who elected the governor should be seated to 'atone' for their sins. Judge Zagel said he's received some unwanted notoriety.

"If you are a judge and someone on the street says, 'Hey judge!' it's not always a good thing," Judge Zagel told the court, which laughed.

Zagel said while none of the correspondence was threatening, it was persuasive, which prompted him to keep the jury names sealed until a verdict is reached.

A hearing on the status of jurors anonymity will be held on July 23, Zagel said.


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