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September 2021


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Tag: Blagojevich

Fed Judge in ex-Gov. Blagojevich Case is Actor and Novelist

Blagojevich in happier days

Blagojevich in happier days

Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich won’t be the only true character in the courtroom when his public corruption trial begins in June. The judge presiding over the case has quite a background.

The Associated Press
CHICAGO – Judge James B. Zagel has meted out justice on the silver screen and masterminded a bank robbery in the pages of a novel.

But the veteran federal court judge who will preside over former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial leaves any theatrics behind when he dons his black robe and takes the bench.

Lawyers whose antics go over the top are swiftly silenced in Zagel’s courtroom , not with a tyrannical thwack of the gavel but with a deft, sly, sarcastic turn of phrase. Those who know Zagel say that approach will serve him well as he presides over Blagojevich’s trial , one of the biggest cases of his 22-year career.

“Nothing gets out of control in Judge Zagel’s court,” says Ronald Safer, a former federal prosecutor who recalls getting this warning when he was too loudly repetitive during a cross examination, at least in Zagel’s view: “First, turn it down about two levels. Second, the lily has been gilded.”

Blagojevich’s trial, set for next June, is Zagel’s second headline-grabbing case in two years. In 2007, he presided over the three-month Operation Family Secrets murder conspiracy trial, Chicago’s biggest organized crime case in decades. The judge sent three reputed mob bosses to prison for life.

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Indicted Ex-Gov. Blago Wants to Go on NBC Reality TV Show: Needs Judge’s Permission

This guy was a born entertainer. After his arrest, he worked the television circuit like a tv star. Now he’s taking it up one notch with reality tv.  The real name of the reality TV show should be: “Is this Guy For Real?”

Blago When He was still Gov

Blago when he was still Gov

Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — When he was indicted, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich went to Disney World. Now that he’s been arraigned on federal corruption charges, Blagojevich wants to head off to the jungles of Costa Rica.

Blagojevich has signed on to do the “Survivor”-style reality show “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” that’s to be filmed in June in Costa Rica.

The prime-time NBC program will pay contestants up to $80,000 an episode. Until they’re voted off, anyway.

Among the others on the show: Nancy Kerrigan, of ice-skating / knee-thrashing fame.

But first the former governor needs permission from U.S. District Judge James Zagel to travel outside the country. He’s expected to ask for that next week.

Blagojevich, who went on a national TV and radio blitz earlier this year, is doing the NBC show to bring in some money, sources close to the ex-governor say. He’s been unemployed since the Illinois Legislature booted him from office in January. His wife, Patti Blagjevich, is also unemployed after she was let go from her fund-raising job with the Chicago Christian Industrial League.

Blagojevich is also trying to finish writing his book, which is due in May. He signed for a six-figure advance for the book earlier this year. It’s expected out in the fall.

For Full Story

Feds Question Jesse Jackson Jr. in Blago Case

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

In Chicago politics, where ever there’s smoke, at minimum, there’s more smoke. We’ll see if there’s any fire here. This probe could still have more legs.

Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — Federal authorities have asked U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D.-Ill) why former Gov. Rod Blagojevich believed he would get campaign cash in exchange for appointing Jackson to President Obama’s vacant Senate seat, sources told the Sun-Times.

More than a week ago, Jackson and his criminal defense lawyer sat down for an interview with investigators in connection with the ongoing corruption probe of the now-indicted Blagojevich.

Among the areas of interest, sources say, was what Jackson told his representatives to convey to the Blagojevich camp on his behalf last year — a time Jackson sought the Senate seat appointment.

And, in a signal that the probe into dealings involving a possible Jackson appointment is still under way, witnesses and possible evidence involved in that part of the alleged scheme were recently subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, sources say.

Jackson’s recent interview took place nearly four months after he publicly announced he wasn’t a target in the probe and said then that he expected to sit down with the feds in a matter of days. He isn’t accused of wrongdoing and has said he never gave anyone the authority to trade cash for the appointment.

For Full Story

Prosecutors Want More Time to File Indictment Against Gov. Blagojevich

By Allan Lengel
U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald filed a motion Wednesday asking for a 90-day extension to return an indictment against Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris to review an avalanche of potential evidence.
Under federal procedures, the government has 30 days to obtain an indictment through the grand jury after filing a criminal complaint. The governnor was arrested Dec. 9 on a criminal complaint.
The four-page motion filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago indicated that prosecutors needed more time to review “thousands of phone calls intercepted between late-October 2008 and early December 2008”.
It also said “multiple witnesses have come forward in recent weeks to discuss their knowledge of criminal activity in relation to the ongoing investigation” that has gone on since 2003.
“The government cannot complete its investigation and appropriately conclude the investigation within the time allowed,” the motion said.
The motion asks that the government have up until April 7 to file the indictment. Blagojevich has publicly denied any wrongdoing.
Read Government Motion

Gov. Blagojevich Shows His Chutzpah: Defies Everyone and Fills Senate Seat

Roland Burris

Roland Burris

By Jon Perkins

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, defying conventional political wisdom — not to mention U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his own state Democratic Party — appointed a former longtime Illinois state official to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
The appointment of former state comptroller and former state attorney general Roland W. Burris, 71, who is currently a lobbyist, is almost certain to end up in both state and federal courts. Illinois Secretary of State Jessie White has vowed not to certify the governor’s selection. Reid and Senate Democrats — including Dick Durbin, Illinois’ senior senator, have vowed not to seat Burris or any other candidate appointed by Blagojevich.
That means a showdown is virtually certain, raising doubts whether Burris will ever fill the Senate seat.
At an extraordinary Chicago news conference, Blagojevich, who faces federal corruption charges for allegedly trying to auction the Senate seat to the highest bidder, said he is making the appointment because Illinois is “entitled to two U.S. senators.” Blagojevich said that he selected Burris when the legislature failed to move on an alternative appointment process after
he was arrested on a criminal complaint Dec. 9.
“The law requires that the governor make this appointment,” he said.
Blagojevich praised Burris and asked that the “appointee be separated from the appointer.”
“This is about Roland Burris, not about the governor who appointed him.”
Burris, who reportedly has donated about $20,000 to Blagojevich’s campaigns, and whose law and lobbying firms reportedly have had contracts with the state government, declined to comment on his legal woes. Burris also denied having any connection to Blagojevich’s legal woes.
In Washington, Reid issued a statement before the Blagojevich-Burris news conference making clear where Senate Democrats stand.

Read more »

Obama Report Says Nothing Offered to Gov. Blagojevich For Senate Seat

One of the worst kept secrets has been the Obama generated report on the his team’s contact with Gov. Blagojevich. On Tuesday the report was finally released.

By Jill Zuckman and John McCormick
Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON – A report issued by Barack Obama’s transition concluded that the president-elect had no contact with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his office and no one acting on Obama’s behalf tried to offer any “quid pro quo” arrangement to benefit the governor in exchange for filling the vacant Senate seat with a candidate of Obama’s choosing.
The report was put together by attorney Greg Craig following Blagojevich’s arrest for engaging in a scheme to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat, as well as other state appointments and services.
Craig said Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and his adviser, Valerie Jarrett, all submitted to interviews with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald last week. Craig said neither Jarrett nor David Axelrod, another senior adviser, had any contact with Blagojevich or his office.
The report did say that Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of Obama’s, was approached “by a member of the Governor’s circle” for information.Obama has portrayed himself as taking a hands-off approach to the governor’s decision about who to appoint to his Senate seat. In fact, the report noted that he was very much interested in who would succeed him in the Senate.
For Full Story
Read Full Report

Legal Observers Say Feds Case Against Gov. Blagojevich May Not Be a Sure Thing

By Jon Perkins

At first blush the case against scandal-plagued Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich would appear to be overwhelming.
Not so fast say some criminal defense lawyers. Though they say the public evidence against Blagojevich appears strong –hours and hours of damning conversations — truth is the tapes are only talk.
Plus, the governor has hired a formidable attorney in Ed Gensen, who represented singer R. Kelly in a child pornography trial that resulted in the entertainer’s acquittal.
The federal government, in a criminal complaint, accuses Blagojevich of trying to sell the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama along with other public corruption.
But some attorneys see the allegations as being tough to prove.
“The tapes are just tapes,” said Michael Helfand of Chicago-based
Helfand suggests that a possible defense for Blagojevich could be that nothing actually happened in terms of the selling of the Senate seat; No quid pro quo.
“The logical defense is he was joking or talking smack in the office,” Helfand said. “It’s one thing to say the guy is slimy,” he said and another to prove he’s criminal. Another tactic the defense might try, he said, is to challenge whether the government had probable cause to secure wiretaps.

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Convicted Financier Tony Rezko Could Hurt Illinois Governor

Gov. Blagojevich/official photo

Gov. Blagojevich/official photo

Tony Rezko could help the feds build their case against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It’s likely the convicted felon is dishing up dirt on somebody.

Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — Federal prosecutors asked a judge Monday to indefinitely postpone Tony Rezko’s scheduled Oct. 28 sentencing on corruption charges, acknowledging they are engaged in talks with the former top political fund-raiser for Sen. Barack Obama, Gov. Blagojevich and others “that could affect . . . sentencing.”
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported in August that Rezko might be cooperating with prosecutors. Since then, the talks, and the prosecution’s efforts to confirm information Rezko has provided, have been an open secret. In September, sources close to the investigation confirmed the talks to the Sun-Times but said there was no deal with Rezko.
In court filings, prosecutors said they are in discussions with Tony Rezko, who was convicted of corruption charges.
The 53-year-old Wilmette businessman, who at one time was a top adviser to Blagojevich, was convicted in June of wide-ranging corruption tied to state deals. He could face a lengthy prison term and still faces two more criminal trials.
Several criminal-defense lawyers, who spoke to the Sun-Times only on the condition they not be named, said prosecutors have asked to interview or reinterview their clients about allegations that Blagojevich’s campaign took contributions in exchange for state contracts or appointments
For Full Story