Prosecution Rests in Blagojevich Retrial; Testimony Focuses on S - FOX 32 News Chicago

Prosecution Rests in Blagojevich Retrial; Testimony Focuses on Shakedown of Rahm Emanuel, School

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After testimony about the alleged shakedown of then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel and a school in his district and the introduction of four timelines of audio recordings in the case, prosecutors in the trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich rested their case Thursday. Attorneys for Blagojevich will begin a defense next week, but the ex-governor has not yet revealed whether he plans to take the stand.

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Key Points :

  • Testimony Thursday morning centered around Chicago Academy, a school in Emanuel's district that got a grant from the state to build an athletic field. Dr. Donald Feinstein, who helped the school get the grant, testified the money was held up.  Former Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk testified Blagojevich wanted Emanuel's brother to hold a fundraiser for him before the money would be released.
  • Legal reporter Larry Yellen said it seemed like the jury in the last trial suffered from fatigue five or six weeks in to the last trial, but this time, after only three weeks of evidence, al the jurors seem attentive and take detailed notes.
  • The prosecution's case has lasted just three weeks, compared to six weeks at Blagojevich's first trial. Blagojevich did not testify in the first trial, even though he said he would to do so. By 4:30 Thursday, the defense is obligated to give a list of witnesses the plan to call, but the list may not be made public. Defense Attorney Sheldon Sorosky said the defense would make some “big decisions” this weekend and no plans had been made.
  • Wednesday, Lon Monk , Blagojevich's law school roommate and former chief of staff, was cross-examined by the defense. Monk testified he helped Blagojevich illegally shakedown Illinois road builders and a racetrack owner for campaign contributions. The defense suggested Monk was slanting his testimony to get a good deal from the feds. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, he hopes to get a two-year sentence in return for his cooperation. “I made him my chief of staff as governor to make sure we ran the government the way it ought to be, that he would protect the integrity of my office. He betrayed me, and it hurts to see him lie about me,” Blagojevich said.

 

UPDATE:  2:48 p.m.
With the jury excused, the defense asked the judge if they can begin their case on Wednesday instead of Monday, saying they expect their case would conclude either Friday or the following Tuesday – lasting about three days.

The judge said they will start Monday and he wants to give them the Friday before Memorial Day off.

The defense said scheduling issues with their witnesses would make it difficult to start on Monday, as they are prominent people with schedules and thought they wouldn’t be needed this soon. The defense made the same argument in the last trial.

Judge Zagel said he was “unsympathetic” to any defense witness scheduling issues.

The judge asked attorneys for both sides to do a preliminary draft on jury instructions and said he wanted to go over the “contours” of the defense’s case in sidebar conference with them. He said the defense will have Thursday night to decide if they want to call any witnesses the prosecution also called and they will discuss it at 10 a.m. Friday.

The defense said although counts one, two and four from the original indictment were dropped, there were a number of topics in the remaining counts that were not mentioned by the prosecution and they may file a motion about it.

The defense also said they would file a motion for a directed verdict, and the judge advised them not to spend a lot of time on it.

 

UPDATE:  2:42 p.m.
Cain said timeline one references all phone calls and exhibits where the Health and Human Services secretary position is mentioned. Only the HHS mention specifically is included, not any cabinet position.

Timeline two contains all phone calls and exhibits where a 501 (c)(4) is mentioned.

Timeline three contains all phone calls and exhibits regarding Rajinder Bedi, Raghuveer Nayak or Jesse Jackson Jr. in relation to the senate seat being mentioned, excluding all calls in which someone other than Blagojevich mentions Jackson Jr. for the senate seat and Blagojevich doesn’t react.

Timeline four contain all phone calls and exhibits regarding the racetrack bill and any mention of John Johnston.

Cain said also included in the evidence for the case are video copies of Blagojevich taking the oaths of office in 2003 and 2007 and signed copies of the oath from the Secretary of State’s office. The defense objected to the evidence but the judge overruled the objection.

Cain read the oath of office from Jan. 7, 2003 and Jan. 8, 2008 out loud and played video of Blagojevich taking the oaths.

The prosecution was then done questioning Cain.

Under cross-examination, Cain testified some calls recorded for the topics were not included and confirmed some of the conversations that were in the timelines involved other topics.

The judge sustained a few objections on questions about whether Cain consulted with the defense or prosecution when making the timelines.

Cain testified he was the one to determine how the calls in the four timelines should be categorized.

The judge said subject to confirmation of exhibits, the prosecution rests. Zagel said he assumed the defense doesn’t want to start their case immediately, so he excused the jury until 9:30 a.m. Monday. Before releasing them, he reminded jurors to avoid all media reports on the case.

 

UPDATE:  2:25 p.m.
The jury returned to court after lunch and the prosecution recalled FBI Special Agent Dan Cain to the stand.

The prosecution showed Cain a series of photographs, including Tom Balanoff, Rajinder Bedi, Rahm Emanuel, Donald Feinstein, Bob Greenlee, John Harris, John Johnston, Gerald Krozel, Patrick Magoon, Lon Monk, Shari Schindler, Doug Scofield, Bradley Tusk and John Wyma.

Cain confirmed the identities of the people in the photos.

Cain testified he put together several timelines for the case, saying the summarize “voluminous records and phone calls” in the case. The defense objected to admitting the timelines into evidence, but the judge allowed the prosecution to hand out the three binders of timelines to the jurors.

In the first trial, one major criticism of the prosecution was that they did not give the jury a timeline to follow of events and calls presented in the case. The first jury said they had to make their own when they began deliberating.

 

UPDATE:  2:13 p.m.
After lunch, the prosecution asked the judge about admitting John Wyma’s testifomny regarding a conversation with Bradley Tusk, asking the jury be able to consider it. The prosecution also asked the judge to withdraw portions of an exhibit regarding ethics training, saying it wasn’t relevant.

The defense argued the full exhibit on ethics training should be left on the record, and when the prosecution wants to make changes like this it makes them look like they don’t know what they are doing.

The prosecution wanted it out of evidence to make sure the defense doesn’t use the exhibit inappropriately.

Judge James Zagel said the prosecution will give a list to the defense detailing where they think the defense used the information improperly, and the defense can argue the list in front of the judge. Zagel said he would rule on what should be redacted from the exhibit.

 

UPDATE:  1:28 p.m.
This sticker was seen in the men's bathroom on the second floor of the Dirksen Federal building, the level on which the cafeteria is located.  Jurors in the Blagojevich trial do not use this restroom.

 

UPDATE:  12:24 p.m.
The prosecution read some stipulations into the record, then played a phone call recorded at 9:44 a.m. on Oct. 31, 2008 . In the call, Robert Blagojevich, Rajinder Bedi and Chrissy Jacobs from the Friends of Blagojevich campaign discuss when Rod Blagojevich needs to be at an India House luncheon fundraising event.

Bedi and Jacobs confirm several Indian community members that will be at the event.

The prosecution finished playing the recording and court broke for lunch.

 

UPDATE:  12:16 p.m.
The prosecution recalled Doug Scofield to the stand and questioned him about the Chicago Academy funding issues.

Scofield testified Chicago Academy was a client of his company, and in fall 2006, he and Tusk discussed the academy in the deputy governor’s office at the Thompson Center. Scofield said he asked Tusk if he knew anything about when the funding would be released, and Tusk said he had a problem.

Tusk told Scofield that Blagojevich saw the grant as Emanuel’s project because he advocated for its release and that Blagojevich wanted a fundraiser in exchange for it, Scofield testified. Tusk didn’t think the funding would be released until Blagojevich worked out his anger, Scofield said.

Scofield testified he did not raise the issue again with Tusk.

The prosecution had no more questions and the defense conducted its cross-examination.

Scofield testified he raised the issue with Tusk because a Scofield employee was on the Chicago Academy board and wanted to know what was holding up the funding.

Upon questioning, Scofield said Tusk was not quoting Blagojevich directly during their conversation.

The defense was then done with its cross-examination.

 

UPDATE:  11:55 a.m.
On cross-examination, Tusk confirmed he only became involved in the Chicago Academy grant because Emanuel’s office called him about it.

In the call with Blagojevich during which Tusk told Blagojevich Emanuel wanted to know why the grant was being held up, Tusk testified Blagojevich told him to tell Emanuel he wanted Emanuel’s brother to hold a fundraiser before the funding would be released.

Tusk confirmed he continued working for Blagojevich until the end of the year and he never brought up the fundraiser again. The judge warned defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky not to make a speech while questioning a witness.

Tusk testified he never heard Blagojevich tell anyone to call Emanuel about having a fundraiser before the grand was released.

Sorosky started to summarize the phone call as just “talk,” but the judge stopped him and said Sorosky must be done with his cross-examination because he was making his closing argument.

Sorosky tried to ask Tusk if he talked to Blagojevich in fall 2008 about the senate seat, but the judge sustained objections from the prosecution and told Sorosky he was way outside the scope.

There were no more questions for the witness and he was excused.

 

UPDATE:  11:30 a.m.
After a short break, the prosecution called Bradley Tusk to the witness stand. Tusk lives in New York and works as a political consultant

Tusk testified he was a deputy governor under Blagojevich in 2003 and worked for him for just under four years. Tusk left the office at the end of 2006.

Tusk said a $2 million grant for Chicago Academy was not a large grant for them to fill. He said in summer 2006, he got calls from Rahm Emanuel asking about the status of the grant payment. Tusk said prior to the calls, he was not aware of any problems with the grant.

Tusk confirmed he talked to Blagojevich’s budget director about the grant. He also talked to Blagojevich about it in a phone call after business hours, telling Blagojevich Emanuel was upset the funding was not being released.

Blagojevich said something to the effect that the grant would not be released unless Emanuel’s brother held a fundraiser for him, Tusk testified.

Tusk understood this to mean Blagojevich wanted him to tell Emanuel that the fundraiser should be held before the money was release. “Tell Rahm I want a fundraiser. Where’s my fundraiser?”

Emanuel’s brother is Ari Emanuel, a powerful Hollywood agent.

Tusk said he got off the phone with Blagojevich as soon as he could but did not deliver the message to Emanuel, though he did talk to John Wyma about it.

Tusk testified he never saw other grants administered like the one for Chicago Academy.

The prosecution then asked Tusk about a conversation he had with Bob Greenlee Dec. 5, 2008, the day the Chicago Tribune ran a story about Wyma reportedly wearing a wire. Tusk said it was a short conversation and they talked again on Dec. 6, when the senate seat was discussed.

Tusk testified Greenlee told him Blagojevich was strongly considering Jesse Jackson Jr. for the senate seat because of campaign contributions he could make to Blagojevich.

The prosecution was then done with its direct examination of Tusk.
 

 

UPDATE:  11:07 a.m.
Under cross-examination, Feinstein testified he found out about the grant in July 2005 and he wasn’t told why it was granted or any details on how the money would be administered.

Feinstein testified he didn’t reach out to anyone about the money until bills began to pile up, at which time he reached out to Paul Miller.

Feinstein confirmed he told his project manager to keep going with the project even though he didn’t know when the money would be released.

Upon questioning, Feinstein confirmed he sent a thank you memo to the Blagojevich office for the first payment of $250,000 on Sept. 5, 2008, which was before the Sept. 11 memo about construction costs possibly going up without bills being paid.

Feinstein said he wasn’t concerned about the first $250,000 payment. He said he continually asked where the rest of the money was and didn’t know why they were receiving it in installments.

Feinstein confirmed he eventually received the full $2 million and said he may have written a letter to Blagojevich thanking him for it.

The defense was then done with its cross-examination.

In re-direct, the prosecution asked Feinstein who from the state was at a Sept. 2006 press conference announcing the grant if Blagojevich wasn’t. Feinstein testified a deputy state superintendent for schools attended.

Feinstein confirmed work on the field began in summer 2006 after he was told the grant was confirmed in spring 2006. Feinstein said he was never told he wouldn’t receive money and understood he would get it.

Feinstein said construction bills were at $1.1 million when he received the first payment for $250,000.

Feinstein confirmed again he was not privy to how the grant was being administered and didn’t know why it was being held up.

There were no more questions for the witness and he was excused.

 

UPDATE:  10:52 a.m.
Feinstein testified in summer 2006, bills started to come in for the field construction and the school hadn’t received the state grant yet.

Feinstein called Paul Miller in the governor’s office about the money and Miller told him he didn’t know where the money was coming from, Feinstein testified. He then reached out to Emanuel, who said he would call the Blagojevich office.

Trying to obtain the money became a “full-time job,” Feinstein testified. He said he was concerned for the contractors and some subcontractors would go out of business if the didn’t get paid.

Feinstein said the school was considering taking out a $2 million loan or having the school’s parents send a petition to Blagojevich to have the money released.

The prosecution introduced a document written by the school’s project manager for the field from Sept. 11, 2006 that said project costs could go up if contractors didn’t get paid soon and students might miss the fall athletics season.

Feinstein said shortly afterward, they received their first payment of $250,000. Feinstein said he had to apply to five different grants to get the $2 million, each of which required a certain amount of paperwork.

The prosecution introduced copies of three of the five applications, which each included a budget and receipts. The grant applications were dated Sept. 11, 2006, Sept. 18, 2006, Oct. 2, 2006, Nov. 3, 2006 and Dec. 19, 2006.

Feinstein said he did not know why the first payment was only for $250,000 when their bills exceeded that amount. He said he had applied for grants before, but with these, the process was “a little more vague and ambiguous.” Feinstein said he never had one grant broken down into five before and he never got an explanation as to why it was administered this way.

The prosecution was then done with its direct examination.

 

UPDATE:  10:23 a.m.
The prosecution called Dr. Donald Feinstein to testify. Feinstein is executive director of the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which is affiliated with Chicago Academy. T

In 2005, Feinstein testified, the school did not have an athletic field and they wanted to turn a parking lot into one. Feinstein worked with then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel to get a grant.

Feinstein testified he was told in 2005 that Emanuel had secured the funding from Blagojevich and held a press conference in Aug. 2005 to announce the project with Emanuel, Arnie Duncan and local aldermen.

The prosecution introduced an exhibit featuring articles from the Chicago Sun-Times and Pioneer Press newspapers that mentioned the $2 million grant. Another article from Sept. 8, 2005 stated Emanuel was working closely with the state to obtain the grant.

Feinstein testified he was told to contact the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to do some paperwork to get the funding. He said he needed to have some environmental and structural studies done, which he submitted to the state. Feinstein said they were ready to start work on the field by the end of the school year, June 2006.

The prosecution showed Feinstein photos of what he confirmed was the first phase of construction -- breaking the asphalt surface of the parking lot.

 

UPDATE:  10:07 a.m.
The prosecution’s first witness for Thursday is Dr. Donald Feinstein from Chicago Academy. The prosecution told the judge the defense wanted to argue no one else would give funding to the school, but the prosecution said that was inappropriate.

The defense argued it was necessary for the jury to hear about Feinstein’s efforts to secure funding for the school to show there was a lot of bureaucracy regarding the funding, which could have contributed to the delay in money being released.

The prosecution said it would call Bradley Tusk after Feinstein and they didn’t want the defense to ask Tusk why he did not contact authorities when he became concerned about Blagojevich’s intended actions. The judge said they would do a “voir dire” on it to determine if the defense could ask the questions in front of the jury.

The defense also wanted to ask Tusk questions about Bill Quinlan and political contributions Tusk obtained for Blagojevich from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Attorneys for both sides agreed they would only ask Tusk about talking over the school funding with John Wyma and not Quinlan.

 

Rod Blagojevich Scandal: More Key Players

Visit the "Who's Who" page to learn more about the former Illinois governor , his co-defendants, inner circle, the legal team and what people like President Obama , Sen. Dick Durbin and other high-profile people have to do with the case. >>


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