James and the Giant Preach - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

James and the Giant Preach



    When it comes to the law, Judge James Zagel is fair and impartial. But that hasn't stopped him from having a little fun at the defense's expense.

    In conversations with lawyers, Judge James B. Zagel has recently compared Rod to a minor-league baseball player, and Patti to a madam. Early on in the trial, Zagel told the jury that he was an impartial referee -- but that doesn't preclude character judgments.

    First, Zagel mocked Blagojevich’s description of himself as a “heavy hitter.”

    “Heavy-hitter is a ridiculous (description),” Zagel said of Blagojevich. “This was a guy who was batting .110 in the D-minor leagues.…”

    Maybe Blagojevich wasn’t the national player he wanted to be, but he did manage to get himself elected governor of the nation’s fifth-largest state, which has two major league baseball teams. He’s more like a guy who was batting .250 in the majors, and knows he’ll never make it to the All-Star Game and the Hall of Fame.

    Then, Zagel made a reference to the Everleigh Club, a gilded brothel that serviced well-to-do Chicagoans at the turn of the last century. The club’s story was told in the recent bestseller Sin in the Second City, by Karen Abbot.

    When attorney Sheldon Sorosky argued that the $12,000 a month that Patti Blagojevich received from Tony Rezko couldn’t be considered a bribe, because she was doing work for him, Zagel brought up the Everleigh sisters, who ran the club. Like all pimps and madams, they paid protection to the cops.

    “I think that that would constitute bribery, even though you might not be able to point to a single specific action or inaction taken by those police officers,” Zagel explains. “It might be bribery over a dozen years. Here, hypothetically, six years. ... It’s still a bribe, even though it’s very difficult to point to what the quo was for the quid.”

    Zagel also clarified what constitutes the legal definition of conspiracy, suggesting that Blagojevich didn't need to have actually achieved his alleged nefarious ends in order to have committed a crime.

    “A conspiracy is a crime of words,” said Zagel. “You can have a conspiracy entered into with fools and bumblers and it’s still a conspiracy.”

    Maybe the Blagojeviches should thank Zagel. Now they have ideas for Halloween costumes -- a minor-league ballplayer, and a procuress.

    And if Rod is found guilty, he has some colorful quotes for his appeal.