Tales from the Trail

Blagojevich’s retrial postponed until April 2011

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich won a delay until April 20 of his scheduled retrial on corruption charges, which means the trial won’t be going on while Chicagoans vote for their next mayor.

Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court granted the defense request for a delay, saying the Democrat’s scaled-down defense team will have to “retool” when he is retried on nearly two-dozen corruption counts. Among the charges are that Blagojevich attempted to sell President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. USA-BLAGOJEVICH/

The first trial ended with Blagojevich convicted of lying to investigators while the jury deadlocked on 23 other counts, leading Zagel to declare a mistrial on those charges. A lone juror was reported to be the holdout among jurors intent on convicting him of additional charges, and prosecutors wanted to retry him in early January.

Testimony spared Obama administration officials any embarrassment, though former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel apparently held discussions about the Senate seat with Blagojevich.

Emanuel resigned earlier this month and is laying the groundwork for a campaign for mayor of Chicago, with the election to replace the retiring Richard Daley taking place Feb. 22.

Tips from juror for Blago retrial

Patrick Fitzgerald take note — when you retry Rod Blagojevich, keep it simple.BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/

That’s the advice of the foreman of the hung jury that was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on 23 counts in the corruption case against the ousted Illinois governor.

Jury foreman James Matsumoto told NBC’s “Today Show” that prosecutors should re-try the case. Asked what advice he had for U.S. attorney Fitzgerald, Matsumoto said:

Blago judge says Obama doesn’t have to testify

BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/The federal judge overseeing the corruption trial of  Rod Blagojevich said he sees no need for President Barack Obama to testify, denying a defense request, though he left open the possibility.

“The testimony of the president is not material to this case,” James Zagel of the U.S. District Court in Chicago said at a hearing on Friday.

The issue, as Zagel framed it, was whether Blagojevich thought that a union official coming to see him about who best to fill Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat was an emissary for the president.

Blagojevich asks for President Obama to testify

Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys have asked for President Barack Obama to testify at the former Illinois governor’s corruption trial, saying he would be “a critical witness.”

In an apparent mechanical error, blacked-out portions of the defense’s request were visible for some time online, and were subsequently published on the websites of Chicago’s daily  newspapers.

Among the disclosures in the redacted portions of the defense motion were that Obama spoke to Blagojevich on December 1, 2008, eight days before Blagojevich was arrested by FBI agents.

No head-butting, judge tells Blagojevich

No head-butting, no fighting, no macho posturing, the judge overseeing former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s upcoming corruption trial said on Wednesday.USA-BLAGOJEVICH/

If the federal courtroom is sounding more like a boxing ring, the disgraced politician suggested as much. On Tuesday Blagojevich called out prosecutor U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, telling reporters “I hope you’re man enough to be there (in court) tomorrow too.”

Blagojevich adopted a calmer tone after Judge James Zagel told both sides he alone would decide which evidence would be heard and that he would “not permit the legal equivalent of head-butting.”

Blagojevich trial to begin in June

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s trial will begin in June, which gives fellow Democrats reason to squirm before the mid-term elections. BLAGOJEVICH/

The judge in Blagojevich’s corruption case turned down the defense’s request to delay the trial to November, which would have been after the November 2 election.

“I think there has been adequate time” to prepare, Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court in Chicago said.

Blago says he’s “blacker than Barack Obama”

Believe it or not, Rod Blagojevich is African-American — and more so than President Barack Obama. At least, that’s what the former Illinois governor tells Esquire magazine in a new interview.
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“It’s such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of (expletive deleted) and phonies, but I was real, man — and am real. This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the (expletive deleted)? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter,” Esquire quotes Blago as saying about the president, without the expletives deleted.

“I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up,” he explains.

Blago is, in fact, a white Democrat who gained prominence for introducing big male hair to the national political arena during a corruption probe that led to his indictment on charges of trying to sell Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. He denies the accusations.

The First Draft: Blago’s new groove: published author

Ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, whose corruption case put the national spotlight on big male hair and crooked Chicago politics, has reinvented himself as the author of a book that claims to offer insights into White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s political ambitions.

BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/Blagojevich, who faces trial after allegedly trying to sell President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, says in the book, “The Governor,” that Emanuel asked him for help in reclaiming his congressional seat after two years with the Obama administration, according to NBC News.

Emanuel, who entered the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 as the Democratic representative for the North Side of Chicao, apparently hoped to regain his seat in the 2010 congressional elections. 

Sen. Burris won’t run in 2010

BURRIS-SENATE/ILLINOISAfter just a few months in office and having fiercely resisted calls for his resignation, Illinois Senator Roland Burris has decided Congress is not his calling after all.The Chicago Democrat appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama plans to announce on Friday he won’t seek election to a full six-year term in 2010. Word leaked out a day early, with sources in Chicago and Washington confirming Burris’ plans to forgo the midterm election.The Chicago Sun-Times broke the news, reporting that Burris had raised only about $20,000 toward what undoubtedly would have been a very expensive campaign. The newspaper also quoted a source as saying that Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, was concerned about his legacy.He entered office under a big cloud that never cleared. Burris was appointed on Dec. 30 by former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who later was impeached and indicted on corruption charges — including trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat.Burris escaped a perjury charge last month when prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence aganist him. Burris declared his appointment “perfectly legal” and said he had never offered the ousted governor anything.For more Reuters political news, click here.Photo credit: Reuters/Frank Polich (Burris reacts to audience applause after speaking at a Chicago, church in  March)

Blagojevich and the mammogram defense

For those having Rod Blagojevich withdrawal, he popped up again on the airwaves this morning to hammer home his innocence — just in case anyone missed the media blitz last week.

Blagojevich was ousted as governor of Illinois amid accusations he tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

“It was an unlawful and improper impeachment. So I don’t view myself at all as being shamed or disgraced,” Blagojevich said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/