Rod Blagojevich may be faced with the ultimate test of his political career: keeping quiet.
The judge in Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial urged Blagojevich and his lawyers to exercise "some discretion" in their comments about the case, after prosecutors asked him to issue a blanket gag order.
Judge James Zagel said he did not want to go to that extreme just yet, but urged both sides to get together and agree on what kind of comments outside the court were permissible and proper.
That was not what the government wanted to hear. In a 16-page motion filed Wednesday, prosecutors had argued that Blagojevich and his lawyers had made remarks in the courthouse lobby a day earlier that amounted to a "mini-closing argument."
"Defendant Rod Blagojevich's efforts to manipulate media coverage to gain favorable attention and thereby to, directly or indirectly, influence the jury, has reached a level that requires court intervention," they said, noting Blagojevich’s numerous TV and radio appearances, including a reality show and his own weekly radio program, which they said had enabled him "to try his case in the public realm."
Zagel said he was disturbed at what he deemed the former governor's "pleas for sympathy."
But he said he was glad the matter was coming up now. Early in the trial, "I would be concerned about things said in the last three or four weeks," he said.
During testimony Wednesday, financier Joseph Aramanda, a friend and business acquaintance of Blagojevich pal Tony Rezko, testified that Rezko told him he was cutting Blagojevich in on a crooked deal involving the teachers' pension board.
Aramanda said he had been disturbed about his share of what he thought was a legitimate business transaction. He said when he complained to Rezko, he was told that the deal had expanded to include others; namely, "Lon, Chris, and Rod."
Lon is Lon Monk, the governor’s former chief of staff; Chris is fundraiser Chris Kelly; Rod, of course, is the former governor himself.
"I was uncomfortable with the whole situation. I thought it was wrong," said Aramanda.
But on cross examination, defense attorney Michael Gillespie accused Aramanda of making the story up to get a better immunity deal from the government for himself.
"What could be more substantive," Gillespie said, "than a sitting governor taking payments?"
Leaving the courthouse, Aramanda said he would never do such a thing.
"There’s no way I would jeopardize making any story up," he said. "I'll tell the truth. If you know anything about immunity agreements, the worst thing you could do is perjure yourself."
At day's end, longtime Democratic fundraiser Joe Cari, who pled guilty to attempted extortion, testified that on a plane ride to New York, Blagojevich talked about his desire to run for President. Cari said he told him that he wanted to follow Bill Clinton's model for raising money.
"As a sitting governor, you are giving out contracts," Cari said Blagojevich told him. "You can go back and ask them for money!"
Cari said he declined the offer to get involved in a Blagojevich presidential campaign.