Former Rod Blagojevich Chief-of-Staff John Harris Testifying Ear - FOX 32 News Chicago

Former Rod Blagojevich Chief-of-Staff John Harris Testifying Early in Retrial

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As the prosecution called its first witnesses Tuesday in the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, former Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris testified Blagojevich asked him what he could get for the senate seat. 

Complete Rod Blagojevich Trial Coverage >>

Key Points :

  • The prosecution played its first tape in the retrial , a conversation between Harris and Blagojevich.  The two discuss the president's desire to have Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate and whether Blagojevich could be appointed Health and Human Services Secretary in exchange.  They also discuss leaking a story that Blagojevich was considering Lisa Madigan for the appointment to gain leverage in bargaining with the president.
  • Harris testified that Blagojevich was very concerned in 2008 with the size of his campaign fund because he had $1 million due in legal bills that he didn’t want made public. Harris said that the size of a campaign fund is generally seen to be an indicator of a politician’s strength. Blagojevich was also having trouble fundraising because of the rumors of legal troubles, Harris testified.
  • When it appeared Barack Obama might become president, Harris testified, Blagojevich began conversations about who to appoint to the Senate.  In a car ride in Oct. 2008, Harris said the governor asked him, "What do you think I can get for this?"
  • At the last trial, the prosecution’s first major witness was Blagojevich aide Lon Monk, but there had been speculation they would begin this trial with Harris, as he may be a more likeable witness for the jury. Harris is central to the allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama’s senate seat.
  • The first witness was FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain, who explained for the jury how the wiretaps of Blagojevich were conducted. After numerous objections during the defense's cross-examination, Judge Zagel instructed the jury regarding why they wouldn't hear certain tapes, and without the jury present warned the defense to not ask questions before the jury they knew ran afoul of previous rulings.
  • The prosecution won a request to admit into evidence a quote from an April 18, 2006 Chicago Tribune article on the conviction of George Ryan.  In it, Blagojevich is quoted as saying “Today’s verdict proves that no one is above the law and just as important it proves that government is supposed to exist for the good of the people and not the other way around, and certainly not for the enrichment of the people who hold public office.” This evidence was not presented in the first trial and shows the prosecution has been scouring Blagojevich's public statements to try to use them against him in the retrial.
  • Opening statements were delivered Monday after the jury was seated. The prosecution laid out a simplified case, focusing their charges around five major “shakedowns:” the attempted selling of the senate seat, the shakedown of a race track owner, the shakedown of Children’s Memorial Hospital, the Tollway shakedown and the shakedown of Rahm Emanuel and a school in his congressional district.

 

UPDATE:  5:30 p.m.
After court adjourned, Blagojevich talked briefly, with Patti at his side.

"As Yogi Berra said, this is deja vu all over again," he said. "I talk and I talk and I talk but as these tapes show, I never committed a crime."

 

UPDATE:  4:47 p.m.
After Harris’ conversation with Blagojevich about having Greenlee research possible foundations for which he could be on the board, Blagojevich, Harris and Greenlee had a conference call about the research. The prosecution played a recording of this conversation from Nov. 05, 2008 at 9:15 a.m .

In it, Blagojevich makes sure the conversation is with just Harris and Greenlee and makes sure Greenlee won’t delegate the task to someone else. Greenlee lists some potential foundations for which Blagojevich might want to be on the board. Harris makes clear they are talking about institutions that could provide security for Blagojevich’s family, that keep Blagojevich’s political options open, that the president-elect would have influence over and that are in Blagojevich’s areas of interest. Blagojevich says he would consider health care foundations, social services and poverty.

Blagojevich asks Greenlee what an organization like the Pew Foundation would pay, and Greenlee tells him in the “twos and threes,” meaning 200,000-300,000.

Blagojevich replies, “Oh, that’s all?”

Blagojevich again discusses is “ace in the hole,” meaning just appointing himself to the Senate, and asks Greenlee and Harris if they think an ambassadorship or the foundation position would be better for him.

Blagojevich, Harris and Greenlee discuss how to negotiate the idea with the Obama administration and then Blagojevich tells Greenlee to do research into foundation positions.

The jury was then dismissed for the day.

 

UPDATE:  4:35 p.m.
The prosecution played another conversation between Blagojevich and Harris from Nov. 5, 2008 at 8:58 a.m . In it, Blagojevich runs ideas by Harris for how to negotiate with the Obama administration on the senate seat. He suggests the HHS secretary position again, as well as appointing himself senator. Blagojevich calls appointing himself to the Senate his “ace in the hole,” which Harris testified was what Blagojevich would do if he couldn’t get anything satisfying from the Obama administration for Jarrett’s appointment.

Blagojevich also runs through some ambassadorships he might be interested in, such as to the U.N., Germany, England, France, Canada, India, South Africa and Indonesia.

In the recording, Blagojevich and Harris then turn to the possibility of Blagojevich serving on the board of a major foundation. Blagojevich instructs Harris to find out what it pays. He and Harris decide to have Deputy Governor Bob Greenlee do research into possible foundations for which Blagojevich could be on the board and that had a heavy reliance on the federal government. Blagojevich said he wanted Greenlee to do the research because he didn’t “want this spreading around.”

Also in the recording, Blagojevich talks about his “Rezko issue” and bashes Bill Daley’s credentials for Commerce Secretary, a position he held in the Clinton Administration. Harris testified Blagojevich was worried he wouldn’t get a position from Obama because of the scandal involving Tony Rezko, who had been charged with government corruption and was a fundraiser for Blagojevich.

 

UPDATE:  3:48 p.m.
After resuming from break, the prosecution played a recorded conversation from Nov. 5, 2008 at 8:31 a.m. between Harris and Blagojevich

In it, Blagojevich and Harris discussed how to approach the conversations about the senate seat with Balanoff and the Obama administration, and Blagojevich expressed frustration with being left with the governorship.

“Everybody's gettin', everybody has a chance now to play a role in history, I've done all these things in Illinois and I'm, now I'm left behind, f***ed, with this fucking, with this dynamic. And unless I do something with him, and the only thing I can think of is, responding to these feelers on his daughter. I'm looking at two years of just shi-, crap and f***ing ineffectiveness. And the very way I get things done around him now is gonna bes-, a cause for them to s-, to impeach me,” Blagojevich said in the recording.

Harris testified Blagojevich did not like Harris’ suggestion to see how the appointment could make Blagojevich a better governor, but rather Blagojevich’s objective was to leave and get a federal appointment for himself.

Blagojevich and Harris talk in the recording about the danger of John Cullerton becoming IL Senate president and him and House Speaker Mike Madigan blocking Blagojevich’s agenda. Blagojevich also expressed frustration that the Chicago Tribune “keeps screwing” him. Harris testified Blagojevich was rehearsing what he would say to Balanoff when making these statements and wanted to bring them up to show he would be sacrificing something important if he were to appoint Valerie Jarrett.

At the end of the conversation, Blagojevich throws out the idea of being U.N. ambassador, asking Harris if it’s impossible. Harris replied it was “extremely remote” and Blagojevich sighed.

Harris testified that in the recording, he and Blagojevich were role-playing the meeting with Balanoff and Blagojevich said during an in-person conversation the night before, Balanoff told Blagojevich he had spoken with Obama and wanted to come meet with Blagojevich.

As Harris testified with previous recordings, Blagojevich was concerned with how to bring up a potential appointment for himself as Health and Human Services secretary and how to get bargaining power with the Obama administration.

 

UPDATE:  3:16 p.m.
The assistant U.S. attorney then asked Harris about the meeting he, Blagojevich and Doug Scofield had with Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern that was mentioned in the previously played recording.

Harris said the conversation turned to the senate seat. Balanoff asked Blagojevich if he had made a decision and Blagojevich said no, Harris testified. They discussed a general lack of support for the idea of appointing Jesse Jackson Jr, which according to Harris pleased Balanoff and Stern.

Harris said Blagojevich talked about a possible deal with House Speaker Mike Madigan in exchange for appointing Lisa Madigan or appointing Emil Jones. Stern and Balanoff discussed appointing Valerie Jarrett or Jan Schakowsky, Harris testified.

Blagojevich asked the men if Obama wanted Jarrett to be appointed and Balanoff and Stern said they would go back and ask Obama about it, Harris testified.

In terms of discussing Jones, Harris testified, Blagojevich said that Jones was a longtime friend of his and bypassing Jones for Jarrett would be a significant sacrifice on his end. Harris said in terms of Lisa Madigan, Blagojevich said it would be a big request to appoint Jarrett over Madigan because it could risk a peace agreement with the speaker of the Illinois House.

Harris testified Stern and Balanoff left by saying the would talk to Obama about whether he wanted to appoint Jarrett to the seat.

The next day, on Nov. 4, 2008, Obama won the presidential election.

The prosecution played two recorded conversations between Patti Blagojevich and Rod Blagojevich recorded Nov. 4, 2008 in which Patti told Rod what senators make and what he makes per year. They realized Blagojevich makes more as governor than he would as senator and lamented that a pay raise for U.S. senators failed to pass.

Court took a short break.

 

UPDATE:  2:55 p.m.
The prosecution then played a recorded conversation from later that day, at 1:22 p.m. on Nov. 03, 2008 , between Harris and Blagojevich. In the call, Blagojevich told Harris that Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern were going to be talking to them about Valerie Jarrett.

In the recording, Blagojevich asked Harris how he should handle the conversation, asking whether he should throw out the suggestion of Health and Human Services. They agreed they should wait to bring up the HHS position, and agreed to say that Emil Jones and Madigan were both under consideration and other people had approached them about the appointment. Harris testified they had not been approached by anyone else, but they were rehearsing what to say when approached by Balanoff and Stern.

Stern and Balanoff were labor leaders with the SEIU, who Harris testified were close with Blagojevich and were some of his early political supporters. They also were early supporters of Obama, Harris said.

Harris testified that Blagojevich also mentioned in the call “that other thing” they talked about, which meant approaching Emil Jones about appointing him to the U.S. Senate in exchange for Jones giving Blagojevich the remainder of Jones’ campaign war chest. Harris testified laws prevent state officials using campaign money they raised for state campaigns on federal campaigns, so Blagojevich thought he could get the money Jones had raised once he was in the U.S. Senate.

Harris testified that in the recording, he told Blagojevich he couldn’t have that conversation in a government building, so they should talk about it “off-campus.”

“Do they think that, they think that I would just appoint Valerie Jarrett for nothin'? Just to make him happy?” Blagojevich asked in the recording.

Harris testified that he replied the president might help the governor with his governing agenda, the way a president can help a governor. 

"Having a friendly White House could be very beneficial to the state to win everything that's on their wish list," Harris said, referring to the requests from the state to the federal goverment.

Harris said they never discussed the items on the wish list in conversations with Obama advisors about appointing Jarrett.

Harris testified when he and Blagojevich talked about Marilyn Katz approaching Harris about appointing Jarrett, Blagojevich brought up help with fundraising while Harris focused on good press that she could help them get instead.

 

UPDATE:  2:22 p.m.
On Nov. 2, 2008, Harris testified he got a call from then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel asking if Blagojevich had made a decision on who he might appoint to the Senate if Obama won the election. Harris testified he replied no, and Emanuel said Obama had a preferred candidate he would like considered. Emanuel did not name the individual, Harris testified, but from Emanuel’s description he understood it to be Valerie Jarrett (a close female friend, a political supporter from Obama’s neighborhood and someone who had been very involved in the campaign.)

Harris testified a Chicago-area businesswoman named Marilyn Katz had contacted him a few weeks previously to also suggest Jarrett for the Senate. Katz was a supporter of Obama and friend of Jarrett. Harris said he passed along the information from the phone calls he received suggesting Jarrett to Blagojevich.

Harris testified since his arrest, he’d heard several recordings of phone calls he had with Blagojevich, but he was not aware he was being recorded at the time. Harris said he and Blagojevich would primarily speak by phone because he mostly worked out of his home and campaign office. Harris said they would speak usually every day between three and 12 times. Harris said if they met in person, it would usually be in his Thompson Center or Springfield office or at public events.

Harris said when he first started working with Blagojevich, the governor explained that he preferred to work at home or the campaign office where he could engage in fundraising in addition to government work. Under Illinois law, the governor would be prohibited from fundraising activity when he was at any of his state offices, Harris testified, so by working from home or at the campaign office he avoided that prohibition.

The government played audio recording session 117, from Nov. 3, 2008 at 8:35 a.m . In the call, Harris and Blagojevich discuss the conversation Harris had about Jarrett and talk about how much it might mean to Obama. Blagojevich asks Harris if he thinks he could get “Health and Human Services,” meaning the secretary position in the cabinet. Blagojevich and Harris then discuss needing bargaining power with Obama to get what they want, so they talk about leaking to columnist Michael Sneed that Blagojevich was considering appointing Lisa Madigan to the Senate.

Harris testified Blagojevich needed Obama and his advisors to believe Madigan was under serious consideration for the appointment so that he would be willing to negotiate for appointing Jarrett.  

 

UPDATE:  2:03 p.m.
Court resumed after lunch with Harris still on the stand discussing the conversations he had with Blagojevich about the senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Harris testified in the latter half of Oct. 2008, Harris had two conversations in the governor’s Thompson Center office with Blagojevich and Bill Quinlan during which Blagojevich brought up having a wealthy benefactor like a Pritzker donate to a nonprofit organization to his benefit in exchange for an appointment to the Senate.

Harris testified he and Quinlan told Blagojevich that he should not solicit any sort of exchange for the senate seat involving a donation to himself.

When Blagojevich would bring up these types of ideas, Harris testified, Quinlan told Blagojevich to not even joke about such an idea, to not even mention an appointment and donation in the same sentence.

Harris testified he was working on a process that Blagojevich could follow to appoint someone to the vacancy in the Senate if Barack Obama won the presidency. The prosecution admitted into evidence a draft of the process and talking points Harris suggested Blagojevich should use. The memo said Blagojevich would use a “thoughtful and deliberate process,” would avoid turning it into “a public spectacle” and said a Senate Search Team would be created.

Harris testified the search team was never created because Blagojevich did not want it. Harris said the document did not accurately depict the way the process was conducted in reality and that Blagojevich only used the memo for talking points in public, never internally.

 

UPDATE:  12:29 p.m.
The prosecution turned its attention, then, to the election in Nov. 2008 that elected then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama president. The election opened a vacancy in the Senate that Blagojevich would get to appoint someone to fill.

Harris testified he was a part of a number of conversations about how Blagojevich would fill the senate seat as early as the Iowa Caucuses in early 2008, and that they became serious in summer 2008 when it became clear Barack Obama would win the Democratic nomination for president.

Blagojevich talked about appointing himself to the Senate in summer 2008, Harris testified. In that time, Harris said, the state was facing a number of financial difficulties and State Senate President Emil Jones had been very helpful and a long time friend to the governor, especially in trying to prevent the ethics bill. Blagojevich would joke to Jones, Harris said, “if you want the seat, it’s yours,” but Harris said it did not seem to him Jones was interested in the seat.

When the ethics bill passed in Illinois, the conversations changed from Blagojevich considering appointing himself or Jones to the Senate. In Sept. 2008, Harris testified, Jones called Harris to notify him that the bill would be called in the State Senate, something Harris considered a betrayal to Blagojevich. After the bill was passed, Blagojevich said there was no way he would now consider appointing Jones to the U.S. Senate.

Harris said in an Oct. 6 2008 car ride Blagojevich and he shared on the way to Northwestern University, Blagojevich turned to him and asked, “What do you think I can get for this?” Harris testified he replied, “For you, nothing, but you can reward an ally or make an ally.” Harris said Blagojevich did not engage the discussion any further.

Harris testified the conversation stuck in his mind because it was the first time Blagojevich had discussed getting something for the seat beyond appointing himself to the Senate. The prosecution admitted into evidence a schedule of events for that day showing the event to which the car ride took place.

Court then broke for lunch.

 

UPDATE:  12:23 p.m.
After the passage of the ethics bill in fall 2008, Harris testified, the governor announced a massive Tollway construction project to improve Illinois roads, the second phase of an earlier program. The prosecution admitted into evidence the press release announcing the $1.8 billion project on Oct. 15, 2008.

Harris testified Blagojevich had pushed for extensive public works projects during his first term in office, which benefitted a significant number of companies and individuals in the construction industry.

The road builders were big contributors to governors in office, Harris testified, and under the ethics bill, all of them would have been prohibited from contributing to the governor if they wanted to continue doing state business.

Harris said the original plan that was presented to Blagojevich was roughly $7 billion, but Blagojevich asked his staff to come up with variations of the programs that were smaller in scope. Harris testified the original $7 billion scope program, a $5 billion scope program and the $1.8 billion scope program that eventually got the green light were presented to Blagojevich.

Blagojevich selected the $1.8 billion program, Harris testified, for several reasons. First, Blagojevich did not want to “fully satisfy the appetite” of the contractors who would benefit from the program. Harris said Blagojevich wanted to see how well he could do fundraising from the industry before the end of the year -- when the ethics bill would take effect -- and then he would announce the larger program if he was satisfied. Second, Blagojevich wanted a program that he could authorize without the approval of the General Assembly, which he could with the smaller program and not the $7 billion program, so that he could get all the credit.

Harris also testified that Blagojevich was concerned with undertaking a larger capital program to build roads and school infrastructure, and he needed the support of the road builders to get support in Springfield for a larger plan. The capital bill had failed twice in the Illinois House by 2008, Harris testified, and Blagojevich thought giving the road builders the Tollway project could get them on board.

Blagojevich told Harris and the chairman of the Tollway board that he would like contracts awarded before the end of the year and effective date of the ethics bill, Harris testified. Harris said it wasn’t possible to get the contracts in that short amount of time, but they would solicit bids by mid-December.

 

UPDATE:  12:08 p.m.
In 2006, Harris testified, Blagojevich began his campaign for reelection as governor. He was elected in fall 2006, took office in 2007 and was scheduled to serve as governor until fall 2011.

Harris said as early as Election Night 2006, Blagojevich expressed desire to not run for a third time and would often repeat that intent.

Harris was at meetings with fundraisers and the governor’s staff, he testified, where the governor would express his goals for fundraising in 2008. Harris testified it became more a sense of urgency in late 2007 and early 2008. Harris said there was some concern about the size of the governor’s campaign fund and the amount of bills that needed to be paid out of it. Harris testified Blagojevich was very concerned about paying the bills and dwindling the balance in his campaign fund because the balance would have to be made public at the end of year.

According to Harris, Blagojevich wanted to delay paying the bills due out of the campaign fund until after the reporting of the balance. Some of the bills were legal bills for investigations into Blagojevich’s campaign fund. Harris testified the governor was concerned that the roughly $1 million would wipe out his campaign fund, but also worried it would reveal to the public that the legal bills were sizable, contradicting statements Blagojevich had made saying the legal issues he faced were minimal. The bills would have been reflected in the January campaign disclosure report.

The prosecution asked if Blagojevich wasn’t running for reelection, why it was so important to him to raise so much money in 2008. Harris testified that to Blagojevich, like most politicians, a campaign war chest is a visible sign of support and popularity.

“One’s campaign fund often demonstrates to the rest of the world and other politicians how much support a politician has and how much influence a politician has,” Harris said. “It’s generally understood that the size of one’s campaign fund is a sign of one’s popularity and political strength.”

Harris said there was a decline in the amount of money Blagojevich was raising because of legal investigations into his campaign. A fundraiser had been indicted, Harris testified, and people were shying away from the governor personally and financially.

The prosecution then turned to an ethics bill that was brought up in 2007 and reintroduced in spring 2008 as House Bill 1, which Harris testified targeted the governor for the way he raised campaign funds. Harris said the ethics bill was designed to limit Blagojevich’s ability to raise money from individuals doing business with the state that totaled more than $25,000.

Harris said the topic was often discussed when the bill was reintroduced, and Blagojevich often engaged in conversations about how to stop the bill. Blagojevich had a significant number of contributions from individuals who would be stopped from making donations under the new law, Harris testified.

The bill became law in fall 2008 and took effect Dec. 31, 2008. The prosecution then introduced into evidence the legislative history of the ethics bill .  

 

UPDATE:  11:53 a.m.
As chief of staff, Harris testified, he was responsible for making sure the governor’s issues initiatives were put into place, he would oversee the operation of the offices and senior staff and would do other duties as ordered by the governor.

Harris testified along with senior staff, they would oversee the 40 some state agencies.

In fall 2006, Harris testified, a problem with a grant for a school called the Chicago Academy was brought to his attention by then-Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk and then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel.

Tusk told Harris that the governor had stopped payment on the grant for a construction project to the school, and Tusk asked Harris to help him to get the governor to release the grant, Harris testified.

Harris said he spoke with Blagojevich about the grant and that Tusk had asked him about it. Blagojevich told Harris he didn’t want to release the money, that Tusk had overpromised from the governor’s office and that Harris shouldn’t release the grant.

Harris said he followed up on the grant, learning that the school had been promised the money earlier and had already begun construction and was not able to pay its bills. Harris testified he communicated this to Blagojevich and told the governor that they should release the money to the school.

Harris said Blagojevich resisted, but when Harris persisted, Blagojevich relented to release the money for the invoices the school had already incurred, but not the full amount of the grant.

According to Harris, Blagojevich said the money should only be released in the amount of the invoices already due and asked Harris to tell Blagojevich when he had released funds and how much.

Harris testified this process was not typical of the office, and the incident with Chicago Academy was the only time it occurred this way.

 

UPDATE:  11:37 a.m.
John Harris was called to the witness stand. Harris, 49, lives in Chicago. He has a bachelors degree from Northwestern Universtiy, and a law degree from Loyola University Chicago. After serving in the military, Harris testified he worked for the City of Chicago. After working in several positions in the city, Harris testified in Sept. 2005, for two months he served as chief operating officer, and after that he became chief of staff for the governor. He held that job for three years.

Harris said he is now a second-year apprentice electrician, which he has been for the past two years. He testified he was able to secure the job and did so to provide for his family.

Harris testified he resigned from chief of staff Dec. 12, 2008 when he was arrested with Blagojevich by federal officials. Harris confirmed that he agreed to operate in the investigation and pled guilty to conspiracy to solicit a bribe as part of a plea agreement with the government. Harris testified his obligation to the agreement is “to provide complete and truthful information to the government,” and in return, the government will recommend at sentencing he receive no more than 35 months in jail.

Without the plea agreement, Harris said he understood his sentence could be more than 35 months, and he said he is also aware that he could ask for a lesser sentence at the time of sentencing. The judge will ultimately decide.

Harris said if he lies, the agreement would not be in effect.

 

UPDATE:  11:26 a.m.
After the break, the judge heard from the defense on their objection to the discussion after the previous witness. Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky told the judge he saw a pattern developing to prejudice the jury against the witness, just as prosecutors used to do by labeling a defendant a gang member.

Judge Zagel started to smile and said, “I was just thinking, have we gotten to the point in Illinois where to say someone is a governor is to say something bad about them?” Zagel noted that this was a backhanded joke and not the viewpoint of the average citizen.

Sorosky continued to say the prosecution’s pattern is prejudicial, especially Dan Cain’s testimony about the investigation into Blagojevich.

The prosecution noted that the defense’s opening statement argued that the government had been “out to get” Blagojevich for years, so they opened the door for testimony about the scope of the investigation.

Zagel agreed and said he didn’t think the testimony was an issue, especially since the type of information is inherent to testimony from law enforcement officers. The jury was then let back into court.

 

UPDATE:  10:57 a.m.
Cain was cross-examined by the defense. Several objections prevented the defense from asking how many hours and sessions were recorded on the wiretaps.

Zagel paused the proceedings to explain to the jury why they may not hear everything on the tape. He said one, it would take a very long time to hear everything and not all recordings are pertinent. Zagel also explained that the law prevents certain parts of audio recordings that are exclusively personal in nature to be played. Other times, Zagel said, the prosecution determines part of the recording is not relevant, the defense can object and then the judge makes the final decision on what gets played. The defense can also offer tapes to be played, the prosecution can object and Zagel makes the final decision. The judge instructed the jury to draw no conclusions from a part of a tape not being played or included in the transcript.

Judge Zagel also told the jury that the transcripts were made by people acting in good faith, but the recording is the evidence, not the transcript. In case the jury finds a discrepancy, they should consider the recordings only, Zagel said.

After a few more questions clarifying when the investigation took place, the witness was excused and court took a 15 minute break.

Once the jury was excused, the prosecution appealed to the judge regarding the questions asked by the defense that violated a ruling already administered by the judge. The prosecution said that being forced to constantly object to these questions does not look good to the jury and defeats the purpose of filing the motion to prevent them. Judge Zagel said he understood that the defense would like to preserve which questions they were not able to ask for the record, but that should not be done in front of the jury.

 

UPDATE:  10:50 a.m.
Cain testified as to how the audio recordings to be played at trial were prepared and how the transcripts that went with them were created.

In portions of the transcripts, Cain testified, that in certain places, asterisks indicate parts of the transcript removed by court order, and that sometimes parts of the call were unintelligible. Transcripts indicate parts that could not be understood with “UI.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar read to the jury several stipulations agreed upon by both sides of the trial verifying that the audio recordings and transcripts were accurate and accurately reflect the original recordings. Judge Zagel emphasized to the jury that this is the only evidence that comes from the court that is agreed upon by all parties as true.

Cain testified that the FBI learned Blagojevich was a prosecutor with the State’s Attorney’s Office for two years, then was a defense attorney. He worked approximately 18 criminal cases, Cain testified, preparing legal documents and handling witnesses. Cain also confirmed under questioning that Blagojevich ran for office and won the governorship twice.

On April 17, 2006, a public official was convicted for receiving personal benefits in exchange for state actions, Cain testified. The assistant U.S. attorney presented an article from the Chicago Tribune from April 18, 2006 to Cain and it was admitted into evidence.

Blagojevich was quoted in the article regarding the public official’s conviction. It said, in part, “Today’s verdict proves that no one is above the law and just as important it proves that government is supposed to exist for the good of the people and not the other way around, and certainly not for the enrichment of the people who hold public office.” The prosecution then was finished with the witness.

 

UPDATE:  10:29 a.m.
Special Agent Cain testified that when the FBI was authorized to wiretap Blagojevich, they were allowed to listen to and record conversations for 30 days. He described the technical details of how a wiretap works and where the conversations are actually listened to.

Cain testified that at the end of 30 days, the disc containing the recordings is brought to a judge, sealed and then stored in a facility as evidence. After that, Cain said, the FBI has to apply for another 30 days from the court.

The prosecution then displayed a chart prepared by Cain to describe the different wiretaps in the case. It shows where the tap was and who it targeted, what the phone number was and when it was intercepted. Cain testified the campaign office had 10 phone lines and two were monitored.

Cain said the wiretaps were typically monitored during the “waking” hours from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., unless they were aware of a conversation earlier in the day. 

 

UPDATE:  10:17 a.m.
FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain has worked for the FBI for 25 years, and before that he was an accountant for an agriculture company in central Illinois. He graduated from University of Illinois with a BA in accounting in 1980 and then got a CPA. Cain’s division of the FBI primarily works with corruption and financial fraud, for which he is an investigator.

Cain told the jurors that a wiretap is “a court authorized interception of telephone communications that allows agents to listen to and record conversations without the knowledge of the people talking on the telephone.”

Cain also testified that microphones or listening devices can be placed in locations to record conversations, as well.

In Dec. 2003, Cain said, the investigation that led to the current charges began. The investigation began when a witness complained to the FBI about being extorted in connection with a State of Illinois board, Cain testified. It began with the Health Facilities Planning Board, Cain said, and then it expanded to the Illinois Teachers Retirement System and another board. Cain said they followed the evidence where it led.

Cain testified the investigation led them to a number of Blagojevich insiders, including Stuart Levine , William Cellini and Ali Ata .

Cain said in Oct. 2008, the investigation brought them to John Wyma. Cain testified the information indicated Blagojevich was engaging in illegal activities regarding fundraising. This information led to the wiretaps of Blagojevich, specifically in the Friends of Blagojevich campaign office on the North Side of Chicago.

Cain testified the wiretaps were for land lines and cell phones, as well as phones at the home of Blagojevich.

 

UPDATE:  9:53 a.m.
Blagojevich has arrived at court and, as his style, did not say anything to the media before heading upstairs to the courtroom. Court began as the prosecution asked the judge to allow them to admit into evidence a quote Blagojevich gave the Chicago Tribune when George Ryan was convicted. The defense "strongly" objected.

The prosecution argued that the quote, in which Blagojevich condemns what Ryan did with the governor’s office, shows that Blagojevich knew what we was doing (allegedly) was wrong and illegal.

Judge James Zagel overruled the objection and allowed the evidence, noting there has been a theme presented by the defense that Blagojevich’s conduct was not fully understood to be wrong, and the prosecution does have a burden to prove intent. The jury was then brought into the courtroom.

 

UPDATE:  9:00 a.m. by Larry Yellen
Blagojevich left his Ravenswood Manor home. The first prosecution witness will be an FBI agent who will explain FBI procedures used to tap Blagojevich phones. He'll be followed by John Harris, the former Blagojevich chief of staff, whose testimony will focus on the alleged attempts by his former boss to sell the senate seat.

In opening statements Monday, defense attorney Aaron Goldstein began by quoting from Shakespeare's Macbeth, saying that the prosecution case is "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." But Goldstein left out the first line of that famous quote, which said, "It is a tale told by an idiot.”

 

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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