In a borderline victory for Chicago news media who went to court to seek a key document's release, Federal Judge James Zagel agreed Friday to make portions of the government's case against former governor Rod Blagojevich public.
Zagel said he will permit some sections of the document, known as a "Santiago Proffer," to be blacked out and released. He gave both sides until next Wednesday to agree on those redactions.
Natalie Spears, an attorney representing the Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, and the Chicago Sun-Times, had argued that the public had a right to know what was contained in the document.
"What goes on in the courtroom is the public business," she said. "Under the first amendment precedent controlling in this case, the Santiago Proffer should be filed openly."
Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky countered that the potential jury pool could be tainted if the document, which includes transcripts of some undercover tapes, is released.
"It is particularly unfair to do it on the eve of trial," he said. "We've all agreed we don't want this case to be tried in the public."
In the end, Zagel said he believed the proffer should be made public, but conceded that the defense could recommend certain redactions which he would consider. "If you give the judge something, that ought to be in the public domain," he said.
Zagel said he did not believe potential jurors would be affected by any information released at this stage.
"The eve of the trial is still a month away," he observed. "Experience has shown that the jury pool members retain very little. Even highly educated people don't remember each and every detail."