Ward Room
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Blago Trial: Live Journal 6/21

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Follow the Ward Room twitter feed, with action from inside the courtroom.

    What to expect today: Ali Ata, the former Illinois Finance Authority director, will retake the stand Monday to finish testifying about his participation in an alleged pay-to-play scheme. Ata testified Thursday that he essentially paid $50,000 to land the executive director job.

    Racetrack owner John Johnston, who was allegedly shaked down for a $100,000 campaign contribution in return for legislation favorable to his industry is also expected to be called. 

    Bradley Tusk, a former deputy governor who Blagojevich allegedly ordered to pressure then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel for campaign money could also be called. 

    Aside from witnesses, Judge James Zagel could address a request last week by prosecutors who asked that defendant Blagojevich be barred from talking to the media. Last week Zagel told defense and prosecution attorneys to work out an agreement on their own, but he could take the issue up again.

    9:30 am

    Blago lawyer Sam Adam Jr. finished up his cross-examination of Ali Ata, who says he gave Blagojevich $50,000 then got a government job.

    10:00 am

    Accountant Michael Horst is called to the stand. Horst's name was included as a possibility for the Illinois Finance Authority director's job along side Ata. The prosecution hopes to establish that Horst was a red herring who would never be picked for the position. His name was included to give Blagojevich cover to pic Ata, they contend.

    Horst says he never spoke with the governor and doesn't know why he was nominated for the job.

    10:15 am

    Lawyers made short work of Horst.

    Maywood Park chief John Johnston testified Monday that in the fall of 2008 he was pressured to contribute thousands to Rod Blagojevich's campaign fund, in exchange for the governor's signature on a bill which he said was important to the Illinois horse industry.

    Johnston said the bill, which diverted casino proceeds to racing venues statewide, meant $9000 a day to the two tracks.

    He said former chief of staff Lon Monk was the one applying the pressure.

    "He said, I spoke to the governor and he's afraid if he signs the racing  legislation you won't be forthcoming with a contribution."

    "I said, your suggestion of a contribution at this time was inappropriate," Johnston testified.  "He said, I really need you to get a contribution in by the end of the year!"

    "What did you think was going to happen if you did make a contribution"  asked prosecutor Chris Niewoehner.

    "They'd cash the check and sign the bill," Johnston said.

    Johnston never wrote Blagojevich a check.  At the time the governor was arrested, he still had not signed the bill.

    11:00 am

    Sam Adam Sr. Cross examined John Jonston.  

    Cleary showing his age, SAS often got lost in his notes.  And despite his years of experience and being considered one of the best defense lawyers in the city, he was objected more than three dozen times by the prosecution -- all of which were sustained.  He was scolded by Zagel several times for veering off course, with Zagel telling him if that was the line of questioning he wanted to take, he needed to call Johnston as a defense witness. One obeserver in the cortroom, whispered to another man "this is not good for the defense. He"s reaching".

    12:00 pm

    After spending a few hours with track owner John Johnston, the prosecution calls Donald Feinstein, who runs the Academy for Urban School Leadership to talk about how Blagojevich allegedly held up payments from a state grant so that he could call in a favor from then-congressman Rahm Emanuel.

    1:05 pm

    Zagel doesn't comment on gag order issue from last week. Says two sides are still in discussions about how to keep Blagojevich from mouthing off.
     
    4:30pm

    John Harris, former budget director for Chicago and Blagojevich's chief of staff starting in 2005. Arrested alongside Blagojevich. He's now testifying under a plea agreement. He pled guilty after being charged with conspiracy to commit a bribe. He could serve up to 35 months.

    On the witness stand, Harris says Blagojevich told him to cut investments in two investment houses because they wouldn't hire his wife. Harris says as early as his job interview in 2005 Blagojevich was talking about running for president.

    Monday Morning Blagojevich Coverage:

    Blago can't wait to visit "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" attraction that led to his ouster from "Apprentice" [PR News Channel]

    Rod can't turn off his inner politician [Associated Press]

    Who's winning? Check out "The Blagojevich Trial Scorecard" [Chicago Tribune]

    It's hard out there for a brother who's supposed to raise $4 million [Southtown Star]

    Previous Journals:

    Thursday, June 17 Journal -- Ali Ata Takes the Stand

    Wednesday, June 16 Journal -- Joseph Cari Talks 

    Tuesday, June 15 Journal -- Adam Calls Monk a Liar

    Monday, June 14 Journal -- Monk's Cross Exam Begins

    Thursday, June 10  Journal -- Monk's Cash Deal

    Wednesday, June 9 Journal -- First Witnesses

    Tuesday, June 8 Journal -- Opening Statements