Blago Trial II Not As Exciting as Blago Trial I
By Sean Stillmaker in News on May 21, 2011 7:00PM
Seldom do sequels surpass their predecessor. And so it goes for the Rod Blagojevich retrial. A trimmed budget, smaller cast, shorter case and less media ruckus is making Blago: Part 2 a far cry from the first trial that landed on the Top 10 stories of 2010. Federal prosecutors rested their case on Thursday. The defense will be calling witnesses Wednesday.
The retrial of Blagojevich started one month ago today. Natasha Korecki of the Sun-Times has been live blogging the trial from the court overflow room of the
Dirksen Federal Building. The Blago Blog has been reporting since he was arrested on Dec. 9, 2008. The dates listed below are the entries you can find more detail.
The federal prosecutors wrapped witness testimony in 11 days, which they publicly said would take five weeks (May 19). In the first case prosecutors rested in six weeks compared to their 17 week estimate (July 13, ‘10).
In the first case Rod and brother Rob listened to testimony from nearly 30 witnesses. This time around Rob was abandoned from the prosecutor’s case altogether (Aug 26, ’10). Instead of facing 24 counts, Blago is only facing 20 this time around. The jury found him guilty on only one count - lying to the FBI when the first verdict was read Aug. 17, 2010.
Blago’s attorneys did not call any witnesses at the last trial. Defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said the defense could take three days with 10 potential witnesses when the trial reconvenes on Wednesday. He left the possibility open that Blago will testify (May 20).
Blago repeatedly said he would testify at the last trial and have all the tapes played. It did not happen. At the beginning of the trial it was reported that if Blago took the stand he’ll have broad control over recordings he could or could not play in his defense (Apr 13). But Sorosky recently said the defense has a harder time getting approval to play them (May 20).
Having all the tapes played in sequential order helped make up the minds for some of the jurors last year. U.S. District Judge James Zagel originally ruled to have all the jurors’ identity withheld, but after the media’s challenge and an appellate court decision their identities were revealed. Many have given interviews since, despite complaints of media bombardment (Aug 18, '10).
The foreman of the jury, James Matsumoto, and Ralph Schindler told Chicago Tonight how they arrived to their conclusion regarding the selling off of Obama’s senate seat when they played the tapes during their 14 day deliberation:
An opportunity we took was to put the testimony aside and listen to the tapes sequentially. You get the flow of the phone conversations that went into that activity and it became very clear to me that the crime had been committed, Schlinder said.
The things he said, I felt he was at that particular point in time desperate for campaign funds and funds to help his own financial situation. I think he said things he normally wouldn’t say directly on the telephone, Matsumoto said.
Matsumoto and his fellow jurors saw Blago guilty of attempt to conspiracy and attempt of conspiracy to commit bribery, but a lone juror kept the vote deadlocked 11-1. JoAnn Chiakulas argued because there was no smoking gun, or money exchanging hands, she couldn’t vote the other way (Aug 27, '10)
A point of contention in both trials is the Children’s Memorial Hospital attempted shakedown for campaign contributions to help the institution. The allegation was a star count for the prosecutors last time, but the jury had a majority of not guilty votes when they deliberated.
However, before Blago even started this second trial he asked to be sentenced immediately (Mar 9). That could’ve been a foreboding premonition, a state of his finances or a quick and painless solution.
The bombastic and flamboyant Sam Adams Jr. said he always loved 12 in the box, and his style clearly held sway over Federal prosecutors last time. But the notorious county defense lawyer is absent from Blago’s team in this sequel.
Blago had Adams, Sorosky, and three other lawyers present the first go round raking up a $3 million bill he paid with campaign contributions that put him in debt (Aug 23). A poor house factor brought up last time is the $400,000 he spent on his wardrobe in six years as governor (July 27, '10).
Sorosky, along with Aaron Goldstein are acting as his defense council this time, which is being paid by the public. Perhaps the final verdict will be read in time for the Bulls to clench the Eastern Conference title, and by that point it will only be a blimp on Chicagoans news radar.