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What to expect today: The Blagojevich attorneys begin their defense today. Rod Blagojevich's brother, Rob, will go first. Rob maintains that he did nothing wrong in connection with Rod's scheme to sell Obama's Senate seat. The first defense witness will likely be Rob's wife, Julie, who is expected to relate her experience watching her husband land in hot water with the federal government.
Rob Blagojevich will likely take the stand as well. His defense is expected to move rapidly, and the former governor is expected to take the stand as early as Tuesday.
Julie Blagojevich testified that, after Rod approached Rod to work on his campaign, she encouraged him to do so because she thought it would help bring the brothers closer. Read the full story here.
Robert Blagojevich took the stand at about half past ten, and the defense spent a good amount of time going through his personal history. Among the more interesting facts: in the 70's and 80's Robert Blagojevich was responsible for a platoon operating Pershing nuclear missiles in Europe.
Robert said in the summer of 2008 he was comfortably operating his real estate business when Rod called and asked him to chair his campaign, saying, "he had a situation where there were few people he could trust."
Robert Blagojevich says when he started at Friends of Blagojevich he had one guiding rule: "Never condition any fundraising request on a government action. I was told never to tie the two, and I never did."
Robert Blagojevich says their fundraising goal, set by Rod, was $2.5 million, by the end of 2008. By the time of their arrest he says they had only received $700,000. He said fundraising was difficult. "Rod's brand was tarnished," he said. "We got more no's than yeses!"
Robert Blagojevich said he was usually not involves in actual fundraising contacts. "I was the scorekeeper," he said. Says he never had contact with John Johnston at the horse track, did not press Jerry Krozel at the Roadbuilders' Association. That was usually up to others like Lon Monk. But he said often during meetings, his brother and Monk would get up and meet privately in another office.
Judge James Zagel has denied Rod and Robert Blagojevich's motions to have the case thrown out for lack of evidence.
Such motions for a "directed verdict of acquittal", where the charges are thrown out at the end of the prosecution's case are rarely granted. In denying the motions Zagel said he was taking into account, among other things, not merely comments the former governor made on undercover tapes, but "how he said them".
The judge left open the possibility that "some of this stuff might disappear" before the jury gets the case, but he did not elaborate.
On a call from Nov. 12, 2008, portions of which were played previously by prosecutors, Robert Blagojevich is heard talking to his brother about the Obama senate seat.
"It's tit for tat," he said, "I wouldn't give anything away!"
Blagojevich explained he was only talking about the possibility of appointing Lisa Madigan, and getting legislative help from her father the House Speaker.
Elsewhere on the call Robert refers to Jesse Jackson, Jr. as an "articulate incompetent," and tells his brother Gery Chico would be the most "uniquely qualified" choice. "He is true blue quality" he said.
Defense lawyers played a tape where the governor's general counsel William Quinlan tells Robert Blagojevich, "You don't let the campaign person do government...it's too open for pay to play."
The judge was forced to take a recess after Robert Blagojevich started coughing uncontrollably after taking a drink of water. "Wrong pipe!" he gasped, between coughs.
He is fine.
Robert Blagojevich says when he heard of an Indian businessman's proposal to raise money for Rod to get Jesse Jackson, Jr. appointed to the Senate, he dismissed it out of hand. He said Raghu Nayak offered to raise as much as $5 million.
During a recording of a meeting with Indian businessman Babu Patel, the matter of Jesse Jackson and the Senate seat is raised. Robert Blagojevich says, "He's going to do what's best for the State of Illinois, and nothing else matters."
"Money is not gonna be a factor here!"
Robert Blagojevich had trouble explaining a phone call where Rod Blagojevich suddenly declared that he was elevating Jesse Jackson, Jr. to the top of his list of candidates for the U.S. Senate. That decision followed an offer from Indian businessmen to raise massive amounts of money for Blagojevich on Jackson's behalf.
In the call previously played by the government, the governor angrily reminds his brother about "promises of help," if he appointed Jackson. But Robert testified he didn't make the link to the previous financial overture from the Indian community.
During the call from December 4, 2008, Rod Blagojevich says, "You know if in fact, this is possible, then some of this stuff's gotta start happening now. Right now. And we gotta see it!"
It seemed to be a direct reference to the promises of money for the Jackson appointment. But when defense attorney Michael Ettinger asked Robert Blagojevich, "What's he telling you," the Blagojevich brother shrugged on the witness stand and said, "Not sure at that point!"
It was the first real weak moment for the former governor's brother, in what had been a strong appearance on the stand.
Monday Morning Blagojevich Coverage:
Prosecutors sought to humiliate Blagojevich so jury could understand his motives [LA Times]
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