Jurors in the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial got their best look yet at one of the former governor's alleged shakedown schemes as the trial entered its second week. But by day's end, most observers called the contest, at best, a draw between prosecutors and the defense.
At issue was an alleged Blagojevich shakedown of horse track owner John Johnston, for a $100,000 campaign contribution, in exchange for the governor's signature on a piece of legislation beneficial to the Illinois horse industry.
Former Chief of Staff Lon Monk testified that Blagojevich was unexplainedly sitting on the bill, all the while expressing concerns that Johnston would not make good on his pledge to donate the money.
Blagojevich was especially concerned about a new law which was to take effect at the end of 2008, limiting his ability to raise campaign cash.
"Why was defendant Blagojevich holding off on signing the racetrack bill," Monk was asked. "He wanted to make sure he was going to get the donation from the Johnstons by the end of the year," Monk said.
Monk said he held numerous meetings with Johnston. "I wanted to let him know why the bill wasn't getting signed," he said. "And as a result, he should give the contribution now."
But on cross examination, defense attorney Sam Adam, Jr. wondered aloud about the alleged quid pro quo.
"At no point did Blagojevich ever say pay me and I'll sign it?" Adam asked. Monk had to admit, the governor had never made such a demand.
At day's end, jurors were left wondering if Johnston always intended to make the donation, and Blagojevich always intended to sign the bill, with both holding off to avoid the appearance of a linkage of the two.
Earlier, Monk testified that Blagojevich flew into a rage when he learned that the chief of Children's Memorial Hospital was not returning his brother's fundraising calls.
Monk said Blagojevich called his office, and inquired about the timing of a grant payment the hospital was expecting.
"Ok fine," Monk said Blagojevich told his office. "Don't do anything with it until I talk with you."