The defense and prosecution in the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich presented their final witnesses Wednesday, trying to poke holes in and dispute testimony previously heard by the jury.
A construction executive who testified for the prosecution said at a meeting with Blagojevich, the governor boasted, "I'm the best damn governor in the history of the U.S."
The prosecution began closing arguments on Wednesday afternoon and will finish on Thursday morning. The case could go to the jury on Thursday.
UPDATE: 4:40 p.m.
Hamilton went over specific evidence linked to specific counts, and then at 4:40, the judge said it was a good time to break for the day. Court will resume on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
UPDATE: 4:25 p.m.
Hamilton started to walk the jury through the various charges and explaining how they work. For example, she noted that in Count 2 (wire fraud dealing with Senate seat), there are four elements: a plan; defendant is part of the plan; intent to defraud; and a phone call where some or all of this took place. She said there is evidence for all four parts of this charge.
The calls in which Blagojevich talks about how to make the "ask" for HHS or the 501(c)(4) and the calls in which he directs Robert to take a bribe and cover it up show there is a plan in place.
Hamilton said there are also calls that show intent to defraud and show that Blagojevich wasn't operating in good faith, like the call where Blagojevich tells Scofield "I've got this thing and it's effing golden." Blagojevich sounds giddy there, and he wants more than people being "thankful and appreciative."
UPDATE: 3:55 p.m.
Next, Hamilton focused on the $1.5 million bribe from Jesse Jackson Jr.'s supporters
She said that after Nov. 13, 2008, it was clear that the Jarrett deal was not going to happen, because Jarrett was going to the White House, so Blagojevich decides to go after the bribe offered by Nayak, and he enlists his brother's help. She said once Blagojevich was given the bribe offer, he didn't turn them in; instead, he tried to cash in on it, as seen in phone calls from Dec. 4 with his brother. She also noted a call with Yang on which Blagojevich stammered about "tangible, political support" and said "you know what I am talking about" and "specific amounts, up front."
The prosecutor said that there is call between the Blagojevich brothers in which Blagojevich tells Robert what to say to Nayak: "if possible, some of this stuff has to start happening right now and we gotta see it." The prosecution said that right there, Blagojevich is guilty.
Hamilton said that Nayak testified to offering illegal fundraising and now Blagojevich is telling his brother to go get it. She said Blagojevich tried to cover it with a "whopper" on direct examination, and she read his testimony where he said he wanted to see public support for the mortgage foreclosure bill that was being held up, even though Nayak had nothing to do with the mortgage foreclosure bill.
Hamilton said that Blagojevich's efforts to take the Nayak bribe are thwarted on Dec. 4, 2008 when he learns about the Tribune story which said Wyma was wearing a wire. She said he canceled a meeting with Nayak after that; if the meeting was about the mortgage foreclosure bill, why cancel it? Blagojevich said on tape, cancel it because it's "too obvious."
On Dec. 5, 2008, Blagojevich had the FOB office swept for bugs.
UPDATE: 3:50 p.m.
Hamilton said that Blagojevich also tried to get 501(c)(4) by using Wyma and Scofield to let Emanuel know he wanted it in exchange for Jarrett getting the Senate seat, and that there's a call in which he wants Emanuel to know about the 501(c)(4) idea without it being specifically mentioned. Hamilton also said there is another call in which Blagojevich spells out the 501(c)(4) idea to Scofield.
Hamilton said Blagojevich knew the 501(c)(4) idea was wrong, and that's why he used two middlemen -- Wyma and Scofield. And, she said, the calls between Blagojevich and Scofield are important because they show his state of mind: sometimes blunt, sometimes artful, but the idea is to get the message across.
The prosecutor said it's criminal to "make the ask," no matter how you do it, and that it's the message, not the messenger.
Hamilton said the defense claims Blagojevich hadn't decided what to do with the Senate seat, but she said that's not a defense -- all that matters is whether he communicated the possibility of an exchange.
She also said there's a call in which Blagojevich uses the word "trade" with Scofield.
UPDATE: 3:45 p.m.
Hamilton pointed out that in a Nov. 10, 2008 call, Blagojevich said he asked for the HHS job, and that Blagojevich believed Balanoff is passing this request on Jarrett. Hamilton said that he is guilty of trying to sell the Senate seat based on this one scenario and these calls alone.
But he didn't stop at the HHS request, Hamilton said -- he kept going. When the Obama administration was "appreciative and respectful," his reaction is telling: "f*** em."
She said the there's a call that shows he is trying to then hatch his next scam -- the 501(c)(4) plan. She said that it's ludicrous for Blagojevich to claim he was trying to promote healthcare and not himself, and that's it's a last-ditch effort to get Jarrett to the Senate seat.
She said there are calls that show Blagojevich planning the 501(c)(4) deal, making the deal, and then talking about the deal, and that these calls are the "criminal asks on tape." In one call in particular, Blagojevich said "If Valerie Jarrett really wants to be Senator, then get me my 501(c)(4)." No one has to guess what he's talking about, because he spells it out in a call with Patti.
UPDATE: 3:15 p.m.
Hamilton said there are only two conclusions to draw from the defense's case: one, they don't want the jury to focus on the evidence and the law, because if they do, they will find Blagojevich guilty; and two, that Blagojevich lied under oath in this very courtroom. Goldstein objected, and the judge sustained. Hamilton said she will walk through all the alleged violations starting with the Senate seat and ending with the Chicago Academy school grant.
Before going through the five shakedowns, Hamilton described Blagojevich's personal world in the fall of 2008, and said he was desperate and trying to cash in on the one thing he had left: his power as governor. She said that in the fall of 2008, his campaign fund was low, the ethics bill was looming, there was talk of a federal investigation, talk of impeachment, and he was broke.
Hamilton said the evidence "overwhelmingly" shows Blagojevich tried to get a personal benefit out of the Senate seat appointment, including trying to take a $1.5 million bribe from Jesse Jackson, Jr.
She said that in the case of the Health and Human Services appointment, Blagojevich tried to use Obama's desire to have Jarrett in the Senate seat to get the HHS job. Hamilton said the evidence is overwhelming, especially in the calls. She said when you listen to them in order and think about the testimony, you will find it "crystal clear" that he tried to do this.
And Hamilton said that Balanoff's testimony bolsters what you hear on these calls, that he understood Blagojevich wanted the HHS seat if he were to appoint Jarrett to the Senate seat. Harris, Scofield, and Greenlee all testified that Blagojevich told them that Balanoff should ask for the HHS seat, and that phone calls back up their testimony. The prosecution asked the jury to listen to Blagojevich's tone on the phone calls. He's serious and he knows exactly what he's doing. The calls, she said, make his guilt "crystal clear," including the call from Nov. 6, 2008 with Yang where Blagojevich said he told Balanoff he could put Jarrett there in a heart beat if got the HHS job.
UPDATE: 3:10 p.m.
Hamilton said that the law focuses on whether the "ask" was made for the bribe, not if it was received, because the law is there to protect people from being squeezed. The harm is done when the ask is made -- that's the violation of the public's trust.
The prosecutor said that personal benefit isn't just money -- it's also a job, money in a 501(c)(4) and campaign contributions. And when the defense asked witnesses about whether they were specifically asked if it was "one for the other," jurors need to understand that the law doesn't focus on specific words being used, but the meaning of the words. The law also makes no distinction between Blagojevich making the ask, or having someone else do it.
Hamilton said that any time Blagojevich directly or indirectly asks for something in exchange for state action, he has broken the law.
UPDATE: 2:55 p.m.
Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton started the closing argument by noting that in Jan. 2003 and Jan. 2007 to uphold the constitution and discharge his duties as governor, and she said time and time again, Blagojevich violated that oath by using his powers to try to get things for himself. She said he tried to trade a signing of bills (bills that would fund schools, build hospitals, roads, etc.) and even the senate seat to get things for himself. She said these were profound violations of the oath and the law.
She said they heard Blagojevich describe his powers in the his own words: He had a senate seat, and it was effing golden, and he was going to try to use this to get benefits for himself.
She said Blagojevich repeatedly tried to get benefits for himself by using his government powers, and that's why he is charged with 20 counts. Overall, these charges cover three areas: solicitation of a bribe, extortion and wire fraud. She said the 20 charges break down to one question: Did Blagojevich try to get a benefit for himself in exchange for an official act? The defense objected to this, but the judge overruled.
Hamilton pointed out these charges focus on an attempt to make a bribe or a personal benefit, not whether or not Blagojevich actually got the benefit he was seeking.
UPDATE: 2:41 p.m.
The prosecution called President and CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital Patrick Magoon as its last rebuttal witness.
The prosecution asked Magoon about his Oct. 17, 2008 conversation with Blagojevich during which Blagojevich told him the rate increase had been approved. Magoon testified Blagojevich told him not to bring attention to the matter after Jan. 1, 2009, and that Blagojevich did not tell him it was because he was breaking policy with the rate increase and didn’t want others to know about it. Magoon said Blagojevich didn’t explain why to not bring attention to it before the new year.
Magoon testified it was strange because generally, it was not Blagojevich’s practice to not bring attention to healthcare matters, and that’s why Magoon remembered Blagojevich asking him to keep it quiet.
The prosecution finished its questioning and the defense started cross-examination by asking Magoon what the U.S. attorney talked to him about prior to his testimony, but the judge sustained an objection from the prosecution.
The judge again stopped the defense from asking Magoon if he had an attorney regarding the Blagojevich case.
The defense said an attorney asked to meet with Magoon before the trial, and Magoon testified he did not meet with them.
Magoon confirmed that in the Oct. 17 call, there was talk about money, but the only money discussed was the pediatric rate increase being approved.
Magoon testified after thanking Blagojevich, he asked if there was any way he could be of assistance regarding the matter and Blagojevich said to work with Bob Greenlee on it.
The defense said Blagojevich didn’t ask for a contribution, and the judge admonished the attorney and told him to save it for his closing arguments.
Magoon confirmed he was interviewed by the FBI in Dec. 2008, a few weeks after Blagojevich was arrested on Dec. 9, 2008. Magoon testified he didn’t remember were the interview happened or who approached who for the interview.
The defense asked if Magoon told the FBI agent in that interview that Blagojevich told him to keep the rate increase quiet. Magoon testified he didn’t recall, and the defense questioned why Magoon wouldn’t remember that when Magoon had had the conversation with Blagojevich two months earlier.
The defense tried to get three more questions in about the interview and Blagojevich telling Magoon to keep it quiet, but the judge sustained a number of the prosecution’s objections.
The witness was then excused and the prosecution played one final recorded conversation, from 8:26 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2008 between Blagojevich and his brother, Robert.
In the call, Blagojevich tells his brother to call Lon Monk about Wyma and Magoon and ask Magoon won’t call Blagojevich back. Blagojevich also tells his brother to not tip off Wyma to the senate seat dicussions.
After a sidebar, the judge said the defense’s justification for the impeachment of Magoon was not properly laid, so the defense couldn’t call its next witness.
The defense rested and court was on a short break before closing arguments began.
UPDATE: 1:56 p.m.
Following lunch, the judge began going over jury instructions with attorneys for both sides.
UPDATE: 12:40 p.m.
The prosecution called FBI Supervisor Special Agent Patrick Murphy and questioned him about his interview of Blagojevich March 16, 2005 at the Winston and Strawn law offices.
Murphy has been with the FBI 25 years and manages agents and personnel that investigate white collar crime. Murphy supervised the investigation that led to the Blagojevich trial.
Murphy testified Blagojevich had his attorney and three others from Winston and Strawn at the meeting, which was in a conference room. Murphy testified he sat across the table from Blagojevich. The FBI offered to record the interview and brought recording equipment, but Blagojevich’s attorney said the interview should not be recorded, Murphy testified. The interview, thus, was not recorded.
Murphy testified he gave the same information on the stand at Blagojevich’s first trial on July 6, 2010. The defense twice objected to the question and the judge sustained both times.
On cross-examination, Murphy confirmed Blagojevich had four attorneys at the meeting, and at the first trial, Murphy did not testify about the seating arrangement or equipment.
Murphy testified he also did not include that information in the report he wrote after the interview, saying the discussion about recording was prior to the formal beginning of the interview.
Murphy testified Blagojevich was asked about recording the interview and his attorney answered for him, saying to not record it. Murphy testified he took very detailed notes and testified according to his 13 page report.
There was no court recorder present at the interview.
The prosecution asked Cain about the March 16, 2005 interview with Blagojevich. Cain confirmed the same details as Murphy about the set up of the room and the offer to record the interview being rejected by Blagojevich’s lawyer.
Cain also testified about an Oct. 20, 2006 interview at Blagojevich’s Friends of Blagojevich campaign office with two attorneys and another agent.
As the prosecution turned to asking Cain about the first the FBI interviewed John Wyma Oct. 13, 2008, the judge instructed the jury that they should not consider the statements to be true, only that the statements were made by Wyma to Cain.
Cain testified Wyma told him about how Blagojevich said he was going to announce the $1.8 billion Tollway project and Lon Monk as asking Krozel for $500,000. Blagojevich said he could have made a larger announcement, but wanted to see if the road builders would perform, and if not, said “f*** ‘em,” Cain testified.
The $1.8 billion Tollway expansion plan was first publically announced Oct. 15, 2008, Cain testified.
The prosecution was then done questioning Cain and the defense began its cross-examination.
The defense asked Cain if he only knew what Wyma said because it was what Wyma told him, and Cain confirmed that.
The judge sustained an objection when the defense tried to ask if Wyma was trying to make a deal when he contacted the FBI.
Cain testified there was not an electronic recording of the Oct. 2006 interview with Blagojevich, but there was a court reporter transcript.
The defense tried to ask if Blagojevich was criminally charged following the interviews, but the judge sustained an objection from the prosecution.
The defense was done with its cross-examination and the jury was sent to lunch as attorneys continued to meet with the judge. Judge James Zagel said he would give each side four hours for their closing arguments.
UPDATE: 11:55 a.m.
The prosecution called Eric Madsen as its next rebuttal witness. Madsen, 57, lives in Toronto, is the CEO for ENCA and also the chairman for Prairie Materials.
Madsen confirmed that he and Olsen met with Blagojevich and Monk at the Sept. 24, 2008 meeting set up by Krozel.
Madsen testified Monk said “hardly anything” during the meeting, and Blagojevich talked a lot about Illinois politics. He and Olsen talked about how the construction industry needed more jobs, Madsen said.
The prosecution asked if Blagojevich “talked up” Krozel during the meeting, and Madsen testified he did not. Blagojevich had previously testified he took the meeting to make Krozel look good to his bosses.
Madsen testified Blagojevich did talk about two Tollway projects, one small and one large, and he understood Blagojevich intended to go through with both. Madsen said after the meeting, he understood the $1.8 billion project would happen in about two months and Blagojevich could approve it himself.
Blagojevich indicated the larger projectwould be three times that size and could also happen without legislative approval, Madsen testified, and that it would happen in 2009.
Madsen testified Blagojevich did not talk about the capital bill during lunch, nor did he talk about fundraising.
Madsen did not live in Illinois and had no fundraising connections to it, he said, and Krozel was the fundraising contact for the company in 2008.
The prosecution was done with the witness and the defense began its cross-examination. Madsen confirmed his company wanted to meet with Blagojevich to talk to him about creating more jobs for the building industry as a whole.
Blagojevich did not ask for contributions during the lunch, Madsen testified.
Madsen testified Blagojevich was sympathetic to the hard times in the building industry.
Blagojevich announced the smaller Tollway project as planned a few months after the meeting, Madsen confirmed.
The defense tried to ask Madsen if Blagojevich ever talked about building hospitals at the lunch and the judge said to not even start. The judge also sustained an objection when the prosecution asked when Madsen first spoke to a prosecution attorney about testifying.
Madsen said he never spoke to a defense attorney before Wednesday.
The judge sustained another objection when the defense asked Madsen if anyone had asked him about the case before June 3, 2011 and again when the attorney asked if Madsen had done a phone interview with the FBI.
The defense tried to challenge Madsen’s memory by asking him he could tell the court what he did on Sept. 24, 2009, since he testified about what happened Sept. 24, 2008.
Madsen testified after they met, he thought Blagojevich was “an interesting person.”
The defense asked again if Blagojevich asked for a contribution at the meeting, and Madsen said, “I believe I already answered that question.”
The defense asked if the answer was no, and Madsen confirmed it.
The defense was then finished with its cross, and court when on a short break as attorneys and the judge met in sidebar.
UPDATE: 11:26 a.m.
The defense attorney got up to do cross-examination and welcomed Olsen to Chicago. Olsen said, “Glad to be here.”
At the Sept. 24, 2008 meeting, Olsen testified, Blagojevich never told him he’d have to fundraise if he wanted Tollway projects.
The judge sustained an objection when the defense asked if Olsen was familiar with Illinois politics and Mike Madigan.
Olsen confirmed that Blagojevich told him there were two Tollway proposals, the first of which was for less than $2 billion and was to be announced by the end of 2008, and the second would come in 2009.
The defense tried to ask if Blagojevich said he wanted to do the Tollway projects through the capital bill, but the prosecution objected and the judge sustained.
The witness was then excused.
UPDATE: 11:21 a.m.
After a short break for the court, the defense rested their case and the prosecution began its rebuttal case. The prosecution called Richard Olsen to the stand.
Olsen, 56, lives in Ontario, Canada and has worked for ECNA since 1989, a cement manufacturing company. His company bought Prairie Materials, for whom Gerald Krozel worked. Olsen testified the president of Prairie Materials reported to him, and he would come to the Chicago area three to four days a week after they bought Prairie.
Olsen confirmed he met with Blagojevich at a meeting Krozel set up on Sept, 24, 2008 at My Way Restaurant. Blagojevich, Lon Monk and the company CEO, were at the meeting. Olsen testified they talked about how their industry was in trouble due to the Economy, and Blagojevich talked about a lot of things.
Blagojevich said "I'm the best damn governor in the history of the U.S.," Olsen testified.
The comments came in the context of Blagojevich talking about the Olympics potentially coming to Illinois and how he thought Obama won elections, as well as talking about infrastructure, highways and hospitals. Blagojevich also referenced seniors not having to pay for buses, Olsen said.
Olsen said Blagojevich didn’t talk about Krozel, but did talk about two separate Tollway projects that were to be done. Olsen testified he believed Blagojevich wanted to do both parts of the project; the first project was less than $2 billion, and the second part would follow in 2009.
Olsen testified Blagojevich also mentioned the capital bill, and he thought the bill was separate from the Tollway projects. Blagojevich said the capital bill would be delayed, Olsen testified.
Blagojevich did not talk about fundraising at the meeting, Olsen said.
Olsen testified they bought Prairie in early 2008 and Krozel handled political donations for Prairie. In Sept. 2008, Olsen said, Krozel would have handled any political donations to Blagojevich.
The prosecution was then done with its direct examination.
UPDATE: 10:54 a.m.
After Lipinski, the defense called Sameer Talcherkar to the stand. He used to work for the Illinois Office of Management and Budget and testified about the bureaucratic delays involved with the grant for Chicago Academy.
The defense also called FBI Agent Jonathan Rouske, who testified Krozel told the FBI when interviewed that he never felt the Tollway bill depended on his fundraising efforts, according to journalist Susan Berger .
The defense was then done calling witnesses and the prosecution prepared to present a rebuttal after a short break.
UPDATE: 10:27 a.m.
The prosecution went over donations Lipinski made to Blagojevich in 2002, and Lipinski testified the donations came from both his campaigns, including the Lipinski for Congress Fund and Friends of Lipinski Fund.
The defense objected but the judge said the witness could answer.
Lipinski confirmed he didn’t really remember any of the contributions except for the first one he made until the prosecution showed him the list this morning. The prosecution seemed to be trying to discredit Lipinski’s memory for how he supported Blagojevich in 2002.
Lipinski testified he “enthusiastically” supported Blagojevich for governor in 2002. The prosecution asked if he remembered who he talked to in 2002 to ask them to support Blagojevich, and if he remembered every person he asked to support Blagojevich.
Lipinski testified he did not.
The prosecution had Lipinski confirm that Blagojevich appointed Lipinski’s wife to a paid state job on the Illinois Court of Claims.
The prosecution asked if when Lipinski’s wife applied for the job, Blagojevich was aware of the $25,000 Lipinski had contributed to his campaign. Lipinski testified Blagojevich was aware of his strong support.
The prosecution was done with the witness, but before the defense could begin redirect, Lipinski said he wanted to say more on the subject.
Lipinski confirmed his wife was appointed to the court of claims, but she resigned long before her term was over because their relationship had “gone south.”
Under re-direct, Lipinski confirmed he spoke to attorneys for both sides for the first time Wednesday. The judge then sustained an objection when the defense asked if Lipinski was only there in court to say he never asked Jackson Jr. for a donation, and again when the defense asked if the Madigan-Blagojevich political divide still exists.
The witness was then excused.
UPDATE: 9:53 a.m.
Lipinski confirmed Jesse Jackson Jr. and Blagojevich served as Democratic congressmen together and the three of them were known as the “Chicago congressmen.” Lipinski testified he identified Blagojevich by his “great smile.”
In 2002, Lipinski testified he was likely the second public official to support Blagojevich after his after his father-in-law, Ald. Dick Mell (33rd).
Lipinski testified he knows Mike Madigan well and has known him since approximately 1968. The judge sustained an objection when the defense tried to ask Madigan’s state district was in Lipinski’s congressional district.
Lipinski testified after Blagojevich was elected governor in 2002, he was on the side of Madigan in disputes with Blagojevich.
The defense asked if in 2001 to 2002, when Blagojevich was running for governor, Lipinski asked Jackson Jr. for a $25,000 donation to Blagojevich’s campaign, and Lipinski said “no sir.” The statement disputed Jackson Jr.’s testimony in the trial.
The defense had no further questions and the prosecution began its cross-examination.
Lipinski testified he helped with campaign fundraising in 2001 and 2002, and he contributed to the Blagojevich campaign almost entirely from his own campaign funds and from a fundraiser he held for Blagojevich on Oct. 15, 2002 that raised about $40,000.
The prosecution asked Lipinski about other donations he made, and Lipinski testified he remember some amounts but not all. He said his first donation to Blagojevich was about $4,000 to $5,000.
UPDATE: 9:53 a.m.
Court was called into session for the day and the defense called its fourth witness, former Congressman William Lipinski.
Lipinski, 73, was a U.S. representative for 22 years, from 1982 to 2004 and was on City Council before that. He also worked for the Chicago Park District as a physical education teacher.
UPDATE: 9:37 a.m.
Blagojevich arrived at the Dirksen Federal Building and paused to sign autographs and shake hands of supporters outside.
UPDATE: 8:59 a.m.
Former Congressman Bill Lipinski arrived at the Dirsken Federal Building Wednesday morning, and was likely to testify. Lipinski was at the center of a story Jesse Jackson Jr. told on the stand that Lipinski approached him for a donation to Blagojevich’s gubernatorial campaign, which he said Blagojevich later punished him for not giving.
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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