Defense: Ex-gov. Blagojevich to take stand Thursday

May 25, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Sheldon Sorosky confirmed the defense's plans Wednesday afternoon with ABC7.

Emanuel testifies briefly in Blagojevich trial

On Wednesday morning, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was called as a witness in the corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich. He took the stand for just a few minutes. Emanuel answered a few questions from the defense, but was not crossed by the prosecution. During his testimony, which lasted only a few minutes, Emanuel was asked whether or not anyone had asked him or his brother to hold a fundraiser for Blagojevich in exchange for the appointment of Valerie Jarrett to the Senate. He said, "No."

Emanuel was White House chief of staff in 2008 and corresponded with Blagojevich and his top aides about the possible appointments to the seat left vacant by President Barack Obama. Jarrett was Obama's top choice for the position. Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell or trade that U.S. Senate seat appointment for his own personal gain.

Emanuel's testimony followed that of Congressman Jesse Jackson Junior, who was considered one of the possible Senate appointees. Neither Emanuel nor Jackson is accused of any wrongdoing.

Jackson: Wife passed up for state job, failure to make $25K donation 'a factor'

On Wednesday, Jackson said that while he was never asked for money in exchange for the Senate appointment, he said he believes his wife, Sandi, did not get a state job, in part, because he did not make a $25,000 donation as requested by Blagojevich.

Jackson said he wanted the Senate appointment and publicly campaigned about it. "I talked to scores of people about the United States senate seat," Congressman Jackson said Wednesday. Jackson met with Blagojevich on December 8, 2008, to discuss the position.

"Did you ever request the Senate seat in exchange for fundraising?" asked Aaron Goldstein, defense attorney.

"No sir, I did not," Jackson said.

"Did you ever tell anyone you'd raise money if you were appointed to the Senate?" Goldstein asked.

"Absolutely not," Jackson said.

During the cross-examination by prosecutor Chris Niewoehner, Jackson said before Blagojevich was elected governor, another Democrat asked him to make a $25,000 to the Blagojevich campaign. When asked if he made the donation, Jackson said, "No chance."

Prosecutors then established that in 2003 Jackson lobbied for his wife, Sandi, to be appointed by then governor Blagojevich to director of the Illinois Lottery. Blagojevich picked someone else. Six months later, the governor and congressman found themselves at the same luncheon. "There was a chill in the air," Jackson said of the encounter. Jackson testified that Blagojevich said he was sorry the thing with Sandi didn't work out. And then Jackson said, "[Blagojevich] departed the room and in classic Elvis fashion, he snapped his fingers and said, "You should have given me that $25,000."

Jackson told Niewoehner he understood that not making the donation was "a factor" in Sandy not getting the job.

After court Wednesday, Blagojevich told reports the Elvis scene never happened. Blagojevich said, "All I can tell you is it is absurd and completely not true. That never happened."

Defense files motion for acquittal

Before jurors arrived Wednesday, the attorneys met with Judge James Zagel to discuss what testimony is allowed in court. Judge James Zagel said Wednesday that if defense attorneys are going to ask Emanuel vague questions "it creates a problem."

"We don't understand what the purpose is of these witnesses," said Reid Schar, prosecutor.

"The purpose of these witnesses is to prove Governor Blagojevich didn't commit any crimes," said Sheldon Sorosky, defense attorney.

The defense has still not said if Blagojevich will testify in his own defense. The former governor faces 20 counts. He denies any wrongdoing.

Defense attorneys also asked Judge Zagel to acquit the former Illinois governor. The motion said tape recorded conversations used in the government's case, which were presented in three weeks of testimony, "amount to nothing more than hot air."

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