Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Firewalls Come Tumbling Down

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich joined 13 other celebrities on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice. Blagojevich was the fourth celebrity eliminated.

    Three years before his arrest, Rod Blagojevich sat down in a meeting with the FBI, refused to let the agents record the session and proceeded to insist that he had constructed a "firewall" in his office between politics and government.

    What the governor didn't know that day in March 2005 was that three years later agents would be secretly recording his conversations with the permission of a federal judge.  And what followed seems to contradict the story he told that cold day in the office of his lawyers at Winston and Strawn.

    FBI agent Patrick Murphy testified Tuesday that during the session with Blagojevich, the governor insisted that he stayed "a million miles away" from the process of awarding state contracts.  He said Blagojevich also told him he did not track who contributed to his campaign or how much they gave.

    Those statements seemed to be contradicted by the next two witnesses, Kelly Glynn and Danielle Stilz.  Both were former finance directors of the governor's campaign organization Friends of Blagojevich.  And both testified that they gave Blagojevich regular updates on who was giving.  They also said Blagojevich participated in meetings about fundraising where he played an active role.

    "He had intimate knowledge of these numbers," Stilz said.  "He knew them better than I did."

    Both testified that Blagojevich had a pejorative term for contributors who promised big money and failed to deliver: "bulls----ers"

    The testimony goes right to the heart of a single count against Blagojevich, number 24: false statements to the FBI. That count alone carries a possible penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000.

    In other trial developments Tuesday:

    • A Chicago real estate agent testified that she, and she alone acted as the selling agent on a Tony Rezko-owned property on the north side. Patti Blagojevich received a $14,369 seller's commission on the transaction. But realtor Mary Ann Piazzi testified that she and she alone did the work on the deal; that she has never met Mrs. Blagojevich; and that She has never heard of her real estate company.
       
    • An official of a road builder's association testified that he felt intimidated by the former governor during a meeting in September 2008. Gerald Krozel said that during that meeting, Blagojevich discussed the possibility of an expanded tollway construction project which would have been good for his industry, but also brought up the need for a campaign contribution. "It seemed like, in my mind, they were coupled," Krozel said.
       
    •  A juror was excused Tuesday. Juror #115 was allowed to leave due to an illness in her family.