A longtime friend of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich took the stand Tuesday after the subject of the alleged Tollway shakedown finished his testimony. Lon Monk’s testimony opened the first trial, but was reshuffled after the prosecution streamlined its case.
Key Points :
UPDATE: 4:25 p.m.
Monk said he and Blagojevich had tied the donation and the bill signing together, but Monk told Johnston they were separate. Still, he thinks Johnston "got the message" that they were tied together.
Johnston wanted to make the $100,000 donation in chunks, some before Jan. 1, 2009, and some after. But Monk told him they needed the money before the new year.
During a call recorded on Dec. 4, 2008 at 9:09 a.m., Monk told Blagojevich it's better if he makes the call to Johnston (rather than John Harris) "from a pressure point of view." Monk said that Blagojevich then stated he was going to tell Johnston he was going to delay signing the bill by telling him they'd have a signing event for it downstate. Monk said that Johnston will make the contribution because Monk had "gotten in his face."
Monk went to the Dominican Republic after that for four days and did not return until Dec. 8; Blagojevich was arrested on Dec. 9.
The defense will begin cross-examination of Monk on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
When Monk is finished, the prosecution will call John Johnston and Bradley Tusk, and recall Doug Scofield and Agent Cain.
UPDATE: 3:55 p.m.
Monk told Blagojevich not to schedule a bill signing event because Monk thought he could go get the money from Johnston now. Monk said he checked with Blagojevich on what language to use when dealing with Johnston, to make it clear they weren't "one for the other." Blagojevich wanted some separation between the two. The contribution should come first, and the bill would be signed a week later.
Monk said that plan would have cost Johnston $63,000/day (7 days times $9,000).
The prosecution played a call between Johnston and Monk on Dec. 3, 2008. Monk said that he would meet him at the race track in 45 minutes.
Monk said he understood that Blagojevich wanted Johnston to make a contribution before he signed the bill. He was going to meet with Johnston to make that happen. He met with Johnston and his father, Bill, at their office at Maywood Race Track.
Monk said he talked with Johnston in the hallway about the timing of the bill.
Immediately after that meeting, Monk called Blagojevich, and the prosecution played a tape of that call, recorded on Dec. 3, 2008, at 4:11 p.m. Monk told Blagojevich about the meeting, the contribution, and the timing of the bill. Blagojevich tells him "good job."
UPDATE: 3:55 p.m.
On another bug tape recorded on Dec. 3, 2008 at 2:13 p.m., Blagojevich asks Monk is he is going to the wake for John Matola's sister. Monk said he was going to see his father, but testified that was actually a lie -- he was really going to the Dominican Republic to golf. He testified that he lied because once Blagojevich got into a screaming match with him when he was about to go on vacation.
Blagojevich said he would sign the race track bill with the other unsigned bills after the first of the year, to deal with the "timing issue." Monk said Blagojevich would do this with other bills he wasn't excited about.
Monk said Johnston did not want this bill to wait until after the first of the year because his race tracks were losing $9,000 a day. Monk told Blagojevich not to wait, but that depending on what they say to Johnston, it will appear the signing is tied to the donation.
Monk confirms that Blagojevich noted he hadn't received a contribution from Johnston in about a year and that he needed one. And then Blagojevich gets Greenlee on the phone to confirm how many bills need to be signed. Blagojevich tells Greenlee he will sign them all at one time.
UPDATE: 3:35 p.m.
Monk said Krozel mentioned they'd have trouble raising money for Blagojevich because the economy was tanking and they'd gotten the subpoena. But Monk thought he was still trying.
Monk said there was a meeting at FOB about the race track bill. The prosecution played a tape of this meeting, since the FOB office was bugged.
Monk and Blagojevich talked about the timing issues surrounding the race track bill; will it look like "one for the other." Monk asks how many bills are waiting to be signed, and whether they can all be signed together.
UPDATE: 2:50 p.m.
Monk said that he told Blagojevich had people "breathing down his neck" to get the race track bill signed. Blagojevich told him not to worry, that it was a timing issue.
Court is on break until 3:20.
UPDATE: 2:42 p.m.
Monk said the racing bill was passed on Nov. 20, 2008, but still needed Blagojevich's signature.
On Nov. 22, 2008, Monk and Blagojevich talked about the meeting with Krozel and the status of the Johnston donation. Monk said he didn't give Blagojevich an accurate description of where Johnson was. He said he lied -- and told Blagojevich that Johnston was pissed and he needed to back off. Monk said he would mislead Blagojevich from time to time because his fundraising style wasn't as aggressive as Blagojevich's.
Monk said that the 2006 and 2008 race track bills were pretty similar, but Blagojevich signed the 2006 immediately and the 2008 version went unsigned for weeks.
UPDATE: 2:31 p.m.
Monk testified he talked with Blagojevich about two road construction projects: one for $1.8 billion and one for $6 billion. Monk testified Blagojevich couldn’t get the capital bill passed because of his problems with the legislature.
Monk said based on conversations he had with Blagojevich in Sept. and Oct. 2008, Blagojevich was going to announce the $1.8 billion program soon and then announce the other on the first of the new year.
Monk testified that Blagojevich would only announce programs he was committed to doing, meaning Blagojevich didn’t want to announce the second Tollway project in case he wanted to pull back if he didn’t get enough campaign funds from the road construction industry.
If the road construction companies didn’t donate, Monk testified, Blagojevich said “f*** ‘em.”
Monk said he and Gerald Krozel were both at a Friends of Blagojevich meeting Sept. 18, 2008. Monk said prior to the meeting, he and Blagojevich discussed asking Krozel for campaign money. Monk testified at the meeting, the two Tollway programs were discussed and Blagojevich told Krozel he didn’t need legislative approval to do the projects.
Monk testified Blagojevich told Krozel he didn’t want to announce the projects before Jan. 1, 2009 because the legislature would feel less compelled to approve the capital bill. Krozel was excited about the two projects because the road construction industry was suffering in the bad economy.
Blagojevich then asked Krozel to get his industry to donate before the year was over, when the ethics bill would take effect, Monk testified.
After Krozel left, Monk testified, Blagojevich said Krozel should be able to raise $500,000 for him and reiterated he had the power to announce the two projects.
Monk testified he understood Blagojevich to be saying he wanted Krozel to raise money for him in exchange for the Tollway projects.
Monk confirmed he spoke with Krozel prior to Dec. 9, 2008, asking him to raise money for Blagojevich, and Krozel said he was working on it.
Monk testified he did not tell Blagojevich Krozel wasn’t raising money for him.
Next, the prosecution asked Monk about John Johnston and the race track bill. Monk confirmed that in the fall of 2008, he talked with Blagojevich about raising funds from Johnston. The prosecution showed Monk a list of donors to the Friends of Blagojevich from an Oct. 6, 2008 meeting and Monk confirmed that Blagojevich thought he could get $100,000 from Johnson.
Monk confirmed that he was working on the race track bill at the same time.
In a call on Nov. 13., 2008, Rob Blagojevich told his brother that Monk said Johnston is good for the money, and that Monk wanted to talk with Blagojevich about some legislative timing issues. In this call, Blagojevich kept asking if he was going to get his money before the year was over. Rob said yes.
UPDATE: 2:10 p.m.
After court resumed from lunch, Monk continued his testimony, saying he was interviewed by the FBI in summer 2005. He learned the summer before Rezko was under investigation.
Monk testified he lied to the FBI when they asked about Rezko’s plans for him, Rezko, Chris Kelly and Blagojevich to make money by selling state board appointments for campaign contributions. Monk said he didn’t admit it to the FBI until Feb. 2009.
Monk testified Rezko would typically pay him in $10,000 cash and it was Rezko’s idea. Monk said he received about $70,000 but didn’t deposit it in the bank so no one would see large deposits. Instead, Monk said he spent it on daily expenses.
Monk testified he didn’t tell Blagojevich about Rezko giving him the money because Blagojevich wouldn’t approve. Monk thought Blagojevich would say the way Monk was receiving money could lead to an investigation of Blagojevich.
Monk testified Rezko was indicted in fall 2006.
In Jan. 2006, Monk was Blagojevich’s campaign manager and John Harris replaced him as Blagojevich chief of staff. Chris Kelly was Blagojevich’s chief fundraiser that year. After the 2006 election, Monk said, he started his own lobbying company. Monk testified he didn’t see Blagojevich much after that but did do some fundraising for him.
Monk confirmed Kelly was indicted in 2007 for tax problems and he stopped fundraising for Blagojevich in early to mid 2008.
Monk testified Blagojevich said in a meeting he was going to get more involved in fundraising since Chris Kelly could no longer. Rod’s brother Robert Blagojevich was also hired to do fundraising and manage the Friends of Blagojevich campaign office. Monk testified Blagojevich said they needed to maximize their fundraising by the end of the year in 2008.
UPDATE: 2:04 p.m.
After lunch, the prosecution told Judge Zagel there were a few issues they’d like to clear up regarding Monk’s testimony before it resumed. The prosecution said they want to play a recorded conversation between Blagojevich and Monk in which Blagojevich said it had been about a year since John Johnston had made a contribution. The prosecution wanted to play the conversation and ask Monk about Johnston’s contribution history.
The judge told the prosecution they may have to question Monk about the tape without the jury in the room to make an offer of proof that the call is relevant to the trial.
UPDATE: 12:31 p.m.
Lon Monk was called to the witness stand. Monk testified he first met Blagojevich while studying abroad during law school. Both graduated from Pepperdine Law School. Monk said he practiced law for two years, then started working for a sports management company and did not return to lay practice.
Monk said he kept in touch with Blagojevich after law school and began working for him in early 2001. Monk was Blagojevich’s campaign manager in mid 2001 when Blagojevich first ran for governor and was his chief of staff in 2003 after he was elected. Monk stopped working for the governor in 2005, but kept in touch with him daily.
Monk testified in 2008, Blagojevich wanted money for a school in then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel’s district, Chicago Academy, approved, but Emanuel later called Monk to find out why the money wasn’t being released.
Monk testified he found out Blagojevich wanted to hold on to the money until Emanuel’s brother, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, held a fundraiser for Blagojevich. Monk testified Blagojevich wanted to hold off on releasing the grant to see how well the fundraiser did. The issue was later turned over to Bradley Tusk, Monk said.
The prosecution turned to questioning Monk about Tony Rezko. Monk testified Rezko raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blagojevich.
Monk testified Chris Kelly was also a Blagojevich fundraiser who would contact third parties to get them to host fundraising parties or make direct contributions. Kelly also contributed personally, Monk said, and raised millions of dollars for Blagojevich. Monk said no one was more important than Kelly, besides Blagojevich, when it came to fundraising.
Monk testified in the Blagojevich governor’s transition team office in 2003 and 2004, Kelly and Rezko had a hand in who should receive state contracts and appointments. Monk said he understood that at times, Kelly and Rezko gave out state contracts or appointments in exchange for campaign contributions, and Blagojevich was present when this was discussed.
According to Monk, there were two conversations between him, Blagojevich, Rezko and Kelly regarding what could be exchanged for campaign contributions in 2003 and 2004, and Rezko did most of the talking. Monk testified Rezko discussed eight to 10 different ways they could make some money to be split between the four of them.
Monk said one idea had to do with acquiring an insurance company that would do business in Illinois and Vegas, but he didn’t recall specifically the other ideas. Monk added four of the ideas involved them getting the money when Blagojevich left office.
Monk testified he knew Rezko and Kelly were working on ways to make money because they told him before they met. According to Monk, Rezko and Kelly stopped making money off state appointments when they found out Rezko was under investigation by the U.S Attorney’s Office in early 2005.
Court then broke for lunch.
UPDATE: 12:12 p.m.
The prosecution began its re-direct examination of Gerald Krozel. In a Sept. 18, 2008 meeting, Krozel testified Blagojevich said he could initiate the $1.8 billion because he didn’t need legislative approval and that Blagojevich wanted him by Jan. 1, 2009.
Krozel confirmed when he told Blagojevich he wouldn’t fundriase, Blagojevich mentioned the $6 billion program. Krozel testified he wasn’t confused about what Blagojevich was telling him -- that programs may or may not be announced depending on how much he fundraised for Blagojevich.
Krozel testified Blagojevich wanted him to fundraise in the road construction industry. He confirmed that Prairie Construction executives met with Blagojevich for the first time at My Way Restaurant in Sept. 2008 and Krozel had been Blagojevich’s contact for fundraising contributions from Prairie Construction since 2003.
The prosecution was then done with its re-direct examination.
The defense conducted a re-cross. Krozel was asked again about the date Blagojevich told him the $6 billion project would be announced and what he told the grand jury. Krozel confirmed he didn’t mention the Jan. 1, 2009 date in his grand jury statement.
There were no more questions and the witness was then excused.
UPDATE: 11:22 a.m.
Judge Zagel sent the jury out of the room so the defense could question Krozel about his personal wealth and political donations he made in the past. The judge will then determine if the line of questioning is relevant and admissible in front of the jury.
After the defense finished its questioning on Krozel’s political donation history, the attorney argued that they were trying to show all the witnesses “play the game” and politically fundraise, but only claim it’s a one-for-the-other situation when the politician is on trial.
Judge Zagel said the offer of proof was not sufficient to allow the line of questioning, so the defense was done with its cross-examination.
UPDATE: 11:09 a.m.
Krozel confirmed he talked with Blagojevich in an Oct. 22, 2008 call about fundraising and Dennis Hastert.
Krozel testified in a Sept. 18, 2008 meeting, they “heavily discussed” the ethics bill, but he wasn’t sure if it had been passed at that time.
Krozel confirmed he understood that in Sept. 2008, people with state contracts could contribute to the governor, but they wouldn’t be able to do so any more after Jan. 1, 2009 when the ethics bill took effect. He also confirmed at the meeting, Blagojevich asked Krozel to fundraise for him before Jan. 1, 2009.
Krozel confirmed Blagojevich never said to him if he didn’t fundraise, Blagojevich wouldn’t announce the $1.8 billion or $6 billion program and confirmed Blagojevich did not say the programs’ announcement was contingent on how much he fundraised.
Krozel testified after the Sept. meeting, he called his bosses at Prarie Construction and said it was a good idea for them to meet with Blagojevich. Krozel testified he and his bosses met with Blagojevich and his brother, Robert Blagojevich, at My Way Restaurant for about an hour and fundraising was discussed.
Krozel testified in the Oct. 22 call, Blagojevich did not specifically tell him ‘if you don’t get me fundraising, you won’t get the Tollway project.’
Upon questioning, Krozel said he did not tell Blagojevich the truth that he was working on fundraising, but he was leading Blagojevich to think he was.
The defense asked Krozel if he told the FBI in a Feb. 12, 2009 interview that he was afraid Blagojevich would take away the $1.8 billion program, and Krozel replied if the FBI said he made that statement, then he did.
Krozel testified in the first trial he told Monk in Nov. 2008 that there wasn’t going to be any money raised for Blagojevich because people didn’t want their names in the paper and neither did he. Krozel said Tuesday he made that statement referring to donations from road builders who have state contracts.
Krozel testified he told Blagojevich in spring 2008 he was not going to personally contribute to Blagoejevich.
Krozel testified he met with the government 10 to 12 times regarding the trial, including that morning and the day before.
The defense asked if Krozel was aware the defense wanted to meet with him befor the trial and he refused, and Krozel testified he did not meet with the defense.
Krozel testified fundraising was discussed twice in meetings with Blagojevich between Sept. 18 and Dec. 9, 2008.
UPDATE: 10:41 a.m.
Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein asked Krozel during cross-examination about the FBI’s visit to his house Dec. 9, 2008. Krozel confirmed he lied to FBI agents, because he was “terrified” of the FBI, and told them he didn’t feel pressure to fundraise for Blagojevich.
Krozel said he didn’t remember telling the FBI that he didn’t feel the Tollway bill was tied to fundraising, and Goldstein showed him a copy of the FBI report. Krozel said he lied to the FBI to get them out of his house.
After a few sustained objections from the prosecution, Goldstein turned to a Sept. 18, 2008 Friends of Blagojevich meeting. Krozel testified he felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to go to the meeting, and he didn’t want to do any more fundraising for Blagojevich despite some he had done in the past.
The judge said what was discussed at the meeting as not relevant and an inadmissible question.
Krozel confirmed they dicussed the Tollway plan and Blagojevich mentioned announcing the $1.8 billion plan (which was announced in Oct.) and a $6 billion plan that was to be announced in Jan. 2009.
Goldstein asked Krozel why he didn’t tell the grand jury that Blagojevich said the $6 billion plan would be announced Jan. 1, 2009, and Krozel asked to read over his sworn statement. After reading it over, Krozel admitted he didn’t mention the month of January in his statement.
Goldstein turned to the capital bill. The defense entered into evidence an announcement regarding the $1.8 billion road construction program. Krozel explained the $1.8 billion Tollway project dealt with Tollway construction projects only while the $6 billion capital bill dealt with building hospitals and other infrastructure.
Krozel testified he believed the capital bill couldn’t be passed in 2008 due to the failing economy. Goldstein asked Krozel if he believed Blagojevich wanted to work on the capital bill and Krozel testified he didn’t know what Blagojevich was thinking, but Krozel didn’t think it could be passed.
UPDATE: 10:25 a.m.
Gerald Krozel took the stand once more Tuesday morning. The prosecution asked Krozel about a Friends of Blagojevich (FOB) campaign meeting in Sept. 2008 and an Oct. 22, 2008 phone call. Krozel testified fundraising was brought up in both and he didn’t talk to Blagojevich again after Oct. 22.
Krozel testified two FBI agents came to his home Dec. 9, 2008 to tell him Blagojevich was arrested. Krozel mentioned his wife’s health was not good at the time; she needed help taking care of herself and couldn’t walk or talk due to an undiagnosed neurological condition. Krozel testified he was frightened that they were coming to take him away and was concerned for his wife’s wellbeing.
The FBI agents asked him about his Sept. 2008 FOB meeting and if he felt pressure to fundraise money for Blagojevich, Krozel testified. He said he lied to the agents, telling them he didn’t feel pressure to donate nor did he think fundraising was tied to the construction bill.
Krozel testified he lied to agents because he was concerned about his wife being upstairs and not being able to communicate with her, and said he was testifying under an immunity agreement with the government.
Krozel testified he spoke with Lon Monk two to three times from Oct. 22, 2008 to Dec. 9, 2008 about fundraising. Krozel said he was not raising money for Blagojevich , but didn’t tell that to Monk. He testified he told Monk that the Illinois Road Builders received a subpoena that stopped people from wanting to contribute to the Blagojevich campaign.
Krozel testified he didn’t tell Monk he was not going to fundraise because he was afraid the $6 billion road construction project wouldn’t go through if he did.
Krozel testified the $6 billion construction project had not been announced by Dec. 9, 2008.
The prosecution was then done with its direct examination.
UPDATE: 10:13 a.m.
Before court began for the day, the prosecution told Judge Zagel they wanted to ask Gerald Krozel about a subpoena the Illinois Road Builders Association received in Oct. 2008 because it was talked about in the last trial, during which the defense tried to impeach Krozel on the point.
The prosecution had tried to ask about it at the end of the day Monday but a defense objection was sustained.
The prosecution also asked the judge to prevent any questions about Krozel’s wealth and personal campaign donations, arguing it isn’t relevant to the case. The defense said these questions were permitted in the first trial and accused the prosecution of changing the rules in the middle of the game.
The defense said the prosecution has given them permission to impeach Krozel and they were certainly going to try. The defense said the prosecution should worry about it in their re-direct examination instead of trying to prevent it before it happens.
The judge said he wanted an “offer of proof” regarding Krozel’s political donation history to see that it was relevant to the case. Zagel said he was concerned the defense was going to try to “just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks,” and he doesn’t want to see that happen. Zagel said if a person has routinely contributed to another political figure, that doesn’t necessarily apply to this case.
Judge Zagel said he would allow the defense to question Krozel about the issue without the jury present to see if it’s allowable.
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