Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Blago Tells His (Long and Winding) Story

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Rod Blagojevich took the stand in his corruption trial Thursday morning and the former governor of Illinois did his best to charm the pants off the jury.

    It could be his only hope to stave off conviction and jail time.

    "I'm Rod Blagojevich. I used to be your governor, and I'm here to tell the truth," he began.

    Then Blagojevich entered into more than four hours of testimony, that, in true Blago fashion, was all about him.

    He talked about his crush on Alexander Hamilton, he talked about his love for basketball, Elvis and his wife, Patti (which elicited tears from both Blago and Patti.)

    He talked about Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and Serbia, and his father, and law school.

    READ OUR BLAGO BLOG FOR THE TESTIMONY PLAY-BY-PLAY.

    After about 2 and a half hours of rambling, wending biographical testimony, Blagojevich actually hit on something germane to his case when he discussed his relationship with Jesse Jackson Jr.

    Blagojevich said he doesn't remember Jackson asking him to name Sandi for a job, but he does remember Jesse Jackson Sr. recommending the woman who did get named. From there he moved on to denying everything with which he was charged.

    The accused governor said he never tried to shakedown Rahm Emanuel or his brother Ari
    Emanuel. He said he he did ask John Wyma to ask Ari Emanuel for a fundraiser, but that he asked outside of Ari's house in Brentwood, Calif. at a fundraiser being held for Rahm Emanuel, not in exchange for a approving a north side school.

    "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."

    He said he never tried to extort racetrack owner John Johnston either.
     
    What he did do was: take the governor's oath to help people. Though he made a lot of mistakes, he says, he believes he upheld the oath.
     
    Throughout the more than four hours of testimony, Blagojevich often strayed into rambling diatribes. At first Judge James Zagel allowed it, but even he grew tired of the schtick and began instructing defense attorney Aaron Goldstien to rein him in.
     
    Blagojevich was also instructing Goldstein. During the testimony the former governor used hand signals to prompt his attorney to ask him certain questions.
     
    But Blagojevich didn't waste all his effort on the judge and his attorneys. He also flirted with the jury.

    One juror sneezed while Blagojevich talked. Without skipping a beat he says, "God Bless You," and went back to his testimony.

    A journalist in the courtroom said the jury was fawning over his testimony.

    That's good news for Blagojevich. He needs all the fawning he can get.