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Blago Retrial: Daily Journal 5/26-27

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May 26, 2011: James Matsumoto says he didn't want to hear this much Blagojevich backstory.

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11:50 a.m.:
Testimony ends for the day, resumes at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

11:47 a.m.: "My words sometimes outpace my ideas, and my good judgment," Blagojevich says.

11:45 a.m.: Blagojevich explains he wanted to wait a week between the $100,000 donation and signing the bill because he took such a "hit in the media" in 2006.

11:32 a.m.: Zagel encourages Blagojevich to answer questions yes or no.

11:30 a.m.: Goldstein asks, "Were you holding up the [racetrack] bill to get a campaign contribution?"Blagojevich says, "No. No." Blagojevich says there's no relationship between the signing of the bill and a contribution from track owner Johnston.

11:16 a.m.: "I'm for the bill," Blagojevich says he told Patti during a phone call. "Do it on my time line. I don't want [Chris Kelly] contaminating it."

11:09 a.m.: Blagojevich testifies that his hesitation to sign the racetrack bill was because of Chris Kelly's attempts to get a presidential pardon. Says it became a "big red flag to be careful with this bill."

10:55 a.m.: The former lawyer in Blagojevich comes out. When he realizes he misspoke, he says "strike that," then asks the judge if he can strike that. He gets laughs from the court and a few jurors.

10:52 a.m.: Goldstein asks, "When someone says they will contribute to Friends of Blagojevch, does it have to be done?" Blagojevich responds, "No it does not."

10:30 a.m.: 10-minute break just as Goldstein starts to talk about Chris Kelly, who was indicted on income tax fraud and later committed suicide. In the first trial, the suicide was not allowed among evidence.
 
10: 26 a.m.:
 "It's a natural thing to procrastinate when donating money ... especially to politicians," Blagojevich says.

10:25 a.m.: Slips while talking about the racetrack bill that he's the one who got free rides for seniors.

10:17 a.m.: This time around when prosecutors object, Blagojevich doesn't wait for Judge Zagel's ruling to stop talking.

10:15 a.m.: Attorney Goldstein is much quicker today at stopping Blagojevich when the testimony starts to veer off track.

9:55 a.m.: Blagojevich continues to testify about the alleged racetrack shakedown and the $100,000 he thought was coming from racetrack owner John Johnston. Defense Attorney Aaron Goldstein shows a donor call list from 2008 and points out Johnston pledged $100,000.

9:50 a.m.: The Sun-Times' Natasha Korecki notices that jurors are more alert today, even taking notes.

9:48 a.m.: Talks more about Lon Monk, says Monk told him the racetrack donation would be submitted by the end of '08.

9:45 a.m.: Blagojevich is back on the stand.

9:30 a.m.: Court reconvenes for Day 2 of Rod Blagojevich's trial. Blagojevich's older daughter, Amy, is in court, sitting with Patti Blagojevich. Reminder: An expert told NBCChicago last year that bringing the kids to court is not such a good idea.

What to Expect Today (Friday, May 27):

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's anticipated testimony continues and could last until Tuesday.
Court resumes at 9:30 a.m., but Judge James Zagel said it will only last a half day and that he will release jurors at noon. [Read more here ... ]

..........................................................................

4:30 p.m.: Trial adjourns.  Proceedings will resume Friday at 9:30 a.m.

4:27 p.m.: Blagojevich testifies that he never tried to shakedown racetrack owner John Johnston.

4:21 p.m.: Government 101: Blagojevich looks straight at the jury and uses hand gestures to explain how a bill can become law. For your reference: "Schoolhouse Rock"

4:15 p.m.: Brief sidebar to move into the horse-racing legislation allegation.

4:10 p.m.: Blagojevich is now cue-ing and motioning his own attorney as to when to ask him questions.

4:01 p.m. Reporter Susan Beger notes that jurors seem to be paying close attention to the testimony. Some say two jurors in particular appear to be fawning over the governor. Berger says they fawned over every witness, though.

3:58 p.m.: Patti Blagojevich now laughs and covers her face with embarrassment every time Rod tries to go way off track with long-winded stories.

3:48 p.m.: "It was a thrill to meet Larry David. Not like meeting Elvis Presley, but pretty good," Blagojevich says of Ari Emanuel's party. The judge stops him for talking about all celebrities he met at the party. Blagojevich smiles and says, "Knew that was going to happen."

3:44 p.m.:
Says he did ask John Wyma to ask Ari Emanuel for a fundraiser. He asked outside of Ari's house in Brentwood, Calif. at a fundraiser being held for Rahm Emanuel.

3:38 p.m.:  U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, spotted in the hall on the 25th floor, tells a reporter "we'll see" when asked if Blagojevich's testimony is effective.

3:37 p.m.:  "I never got into the minutia of grants," he says. "It was not my job"

3:35 p.m.: Says he has no recollection of approving grant money to Chicago Academy and was surprised to get a call asking for the money.

3:30 p.m.: Says he thought they received the money. He denies holding it up in exchange for a fundraiser hosted by Emanuel's brother, denies asking Harris to hold it up.

3:21 p.m.: After a short break, Blagojevich denies delaying a grant for a northwest side school in Rahm Emanuel's district.

2:53 p.m.: "Many people in public life [go on and on], because the last thing they want is dead air," Zagel says.

2:52 p.m.: While the jury is out on a break, Judge Zagel again urges Defense Attorney Aaron Goldstein to cut Blagojevich off.

2:49 p.m.: A juror sneezes while Blagojevich talks. Without skipping a beat he says, "God Bless You," and goes back to his testimony.

2:45 p.m.: Judge Zagel starts losing patience with Blagojevich's long, rambling answers. Tells him to answer yes, no or I don't know.

2:41 p.m.: Says he took the governor's oath to help people. Though he made a lot of mistakes, he says, he believes he upheld the oath.

2:38 p.m.: Each time he's stopped for rambling, Blagojevich apologizes, "I'm sorry."

2:37 p.m.: Blagojevich brings up Barack Obama while talking about the importance of fundraising. A sidebar is called.

2:34 p.m.: Says Gerry Krozel, a former road building executive, was a bigger fundraiser in beginning than Tony Rezko or Chris Kelly.

2:31 p.m.: Judge Zagel says it's best if Blagojevich answers the narrow questions.

2:29 p.m.: Blagojevich says he doesn't remember Jackson asking him to name Jackson's wife Sandi for a job. Remembers Jesse Jackson Sr. recommending the woman who did get named.
 
2:24 p.m.: 
Defense shows a brief video clip from the Democratic convention of Blagojevich and Jackson hugging.

2:18 p.m.: Prosecutors try to rein in Blagojevich when he gets way off track. One objection prompts Rod to stop and say, "Relavant, probably not."

2:16 p.m.: “I really liked Jesse Jackson Jr. in the very beginning. I was close to the family."

2:11 p.m.: Talks about winning election state legislature in 1992 and how Dick Mell asked him to run.

2:04 p.m.: Says he asked Ald. Dick Mell for his daughter's hand in marriage. "I would've found a way around legislature to marry her," he said.

2:02 p.m.: Says he bought Patti's engagement ring at Marshal Fields for $5,000.

1:58 p.m.: Blagojevich recalls that when he met Patti in1988 she was wearing a red dress. It was a difficult time, he said, because his father had a stroke.

1:56 p.m.: Prosecutors object to Blagojevich's long-winded responses. They ask for more focus in an effort to move things along. But Judge Zagel said it's fine, that it's his chance to tell his story.

12:51 p.m.: One female reporter in the courtroom compares Blagojevich's testimony to "a bad first date."


12:35 p.m.:
The jury foreman from the first trial jokes, "If Blagojevich would have testified during the first trial, we would have found him guilty for subjecting us to this."

12:29 p.m.: Judge calls for lunch break. Blagojevich and Patti hug.

12:28 p.m.: Tears up when recalling the day he met his wife, Patti: March 6, 1988. Patti starts crying.

12:20 p.m.: Finishes talking about law school ...

12:18 p.m.: "I can't say I came out of law school knowing much about law."

12:10 p.m.: The prosecution's first objection comes after almost 90 minutes of testimony when Blagojevich starts rambling on about Lon Monk's parents.

12:04 p.m.: All 18 members of the jury look at Blagojevich while he tells stories from the witness stand. But they look bored rather than fascinated.

Noon: Says he met Lon Monk on a bus in London on the way to the Tower of London.

11:58 a.m.: Imitates Bobby Kennedy: "It's on to Chicago and let's win theyah!"

11:56 a.m.: Says assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy shaped his politicals views. "That's why I became a Democrat."

11:22 a.m.: Court breaks for 20 minutes.

11:14 a.m.: He jokes, "I like to say I applied (to Harvard Law) on a Monday and rejected on a Tuesday, but not literally because I'm under oath."

11:10 a.m.: Blagojevich talks fondly about disco and the '70s, then is asked by Atty. Goldstein "Are you still in that era with your hair?"

11:06 a.m.: Says his Serbian birth name, Milorod, means 'Happy Worker.'

10:59 a.m.: Says he told his daughter, Amy, this morning he was going to testify and "set the record straight." She said, "Good luck, watch your language." Blagojevich addresses his foul mouth: "When I hear myself on those tapes, I sound like an F-ing Jerk and I apologize."

10:54 a.m.: He constantly turns to the jury, looking at them as he continues to tell his life story.

10:50 a.m.: No objections yet from prosecution.

10:48 a.m.: He says Elvis' death on Aug. 16, 1977 is very significant in his life.

10:40 a.m.: Blagojevich chokes up as he talks about how his father never got to see him become governor of Illinois.

10:30 a.m.: Long biographical Q&A. He talks about his basketball aspirations as a kid. "When I was governor, I think I was the only governor in the United States who could spin a basketball on all five fingers of his right hand.  At least I had that going for me."

10:18 a.m.: Blagojevich is telling his life story / background with long, in-depth stories. He's making himself laugh.

10:13 a.m.: Blagojevich introduction: "I'm Rod Blagojevich. I used to be your governor, and I'm here to tell the truth."

10:11 a.m.: 
The defense calls Rod Blagojevich to the stand.

10:01 a.m.: After a brief sidebar with attorneys, Judge Zagel calls for a 10-minute recess. Blagojevich leaves the courtroom.

9:35 a.m.: Right on time, Blagojevich arrives to the courthouse. He smiled and waved to the press and said nothing about his trial but promoted his limo driver.

7:49 a.m.: Word that Blagojevich will testify in his own defense today draws huge crowds. About 50 people already in line to get into courtroom.

What to Expect Today:
Rod Blagojevich's testimony. At least, that's what defense attorneys are letting on. Blagojevich's testimony has been discussed ever since he didn't take the stand during his first trial. Sources said last week the former governor finally will follow through, and following testimonies Wednesday from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., today could be the day.  [Read what else to expect and how Emanuel and Jackson affected the case right here ... ]

Past Journals:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 -- Emanuel, Jackson Testify

Thursday, May 19, 2011 -- Blago To Testify

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 -- Prosecution Expected to Wrap

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 -- Blago Friend Monk Takes Stand

Monday, May 16, 2011 -- Wyma Cross-Examined

Thursday, May 12, 2011 -- Better Day for Blago?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 -- Motion for Mistrial Denied

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 -- '[Bleeping] Golden' Tapes Played

Monday, May 9, 2011 -- Harris Cross-Examined

Thursday, May 5, 2011 -- Blago Considered Appointing Himself Senator

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 -- Harris Testimony Continues

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 -- Testimony Begins

Monday, May 2, 2011 -- Opening Statements Due Today

Thursday, April 28, 2011 -- Questioning Continues

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
-- 6 Jurors Left to Question?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 -- Opening Statements Likely Monday

Monday, April 25, 2011
-- Jury Selection Resumes

Thursday, April 21, 2011 -- Jurors Questioned

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 -- Welcome to the Retrial

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