Federal prosecutors have asked a court in Springfield to be allowed to treat President Barack Obama’s close friend and golfing partner Dr. Eric Whitaker as a hostile witness in the trial of Leon Dingle, who is accused of stealing some $3 million in grants.
Whitaker was chief of the Illinois Department of Public Health under Rod Blagojevich.
Prosecutors said in the motion that Whitaker signed a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, but quickly quit cooperating when questions turned to his “personal relationship” with Quinshaunta R. Golden, his former chief of staff when he was at the agency. Golden, who oversaw the awarding of contracts for the department of health, pleaded guilty to stealing some $400,000 in funds.
“During that meeting, Dr. Whitaker refused to answer questions concerning his personal relationship with Golden…and has refused to provide complete and truthful information to the government,” they wrote. “Dr. Whitaker is a witness identified with an adverse party, defendant Dingle, but also that he is a witness clearly hostile to the government.”
In the 13-page hostile-witness motion, prosecutors expand on their assertion:
“The government requests that the court allow the government to use leading questions of Dr. Whitaker on direct examination in the event he is called as a witness . . . because he is both a witness identified with an adverse party, namely defendant Leon Dingle Jr., and a hostile witness,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass wrote. “The government is not seeking permission to do so solely because Dr. Whitaker refused to answer a single question about a sexual relationship with Golden. It is counsel for Dingle and not the government that has raised such an issue in this trial.
“Rather, Dr. Whitaker was the director of DPH, an agency of the state of Illinois that received hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, and the approving official, along with Golden, an alleged co-conspirator with Dingle, of DPH grants during the time millions of dollars in grant funds were awarded to,” Bass added.
Dingle has denied the charges that he stole the grant money. Whitaker has denied any knowledge of wrong doing at the department of health.