Judge: Blago Tapes Can Be Released

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment trial apparently will get to hear secretly made FBI wiretap tapes of the embattled governor after all.

Chief Judge James F. Holderman on Friday ordered the four tapes released to the House impeachment committee.

The committee will be free to pass them along to the Senate, where the governor's impeachment trial is due to get under way Monday.

Blagojevich faces federal charges of fraud conspiracy and solicitation to commit bribery. He has already been impeached by the Illinois House and conviction by the Senate would result in his removal from office.

Attorneys say the government has numerous tapes of Blagojevich.

But the impeachment committee is getting just four and they have been edited to weed out any information the government considers too sensitive.

All four tapes involve an alleged effort by the governor to shake down racetrack owner John Johnston for a sizable campaign contribution while a bill worth millions of dollars to the racing industry was pending.

Besides the governor, those heard on the tapes are believed to be his brother, Robert, racetrack owner Johnston and lobbyist Lon Monk, a former Blagojevich aide.

The governor is the only one of the four accused of any wrongdoing.

Blagojevich wasn't surprised by the judge's decision.

"It's not unexpected," he told reporters Friday.

When asked if he was concerned about the tapes being used at the upcoming Illinois Senate trial, he answered, "I think you should listen to them and draw your own conclusion. The truth is the truth and that's what matters."

The FBI made its tapes by placing wiretaps on the governor's home and campaign office phones as well as a bug in the campaign office itself.

State Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said that once the tapes were released the impeachment committee would quickly reconvene and enter them into evidence.

Depending on what the members hear on the tapes, the House committee could draft another article of impeachment against the governor, said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, the chairman of the committee.

The tapes then would presumably be passed along to the Senate as were the other exhibits collected by the impeachment committee in its hearings.

NBCChicago.com will offer live video of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment trial each day beginning Jan. 26.

NBC 5 Chicago will also broadcast the trial on its digital channel "NBC Plus," which can be found on Digital Channel 5.2, Comcast Cable Channel 194, RCN Cable Channel 190 and West Cable Channel 130.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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