Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2010

Union Official Testifies on Conversations with Blagojevich on Senate Choice

Testimony from a labor union official shows ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich angled for job offers and other help from supporters of President Barack Obama.

The SEIU's Tom Balanoff says in November 2008 he acted as a go-between between Blagojevich and members of Obama's inner circle.

In a secretly taped call played at the trial on Tuesday, Blagojevich talks to Balanoff about Senate candidates, including Obama friend Valerie Jarrett.

Then the governor wonders aloud if Obama donors would give millions to start a health care advocacy group Blagojevich could work for.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah and then we can help our new senator, Valerie Jarrett, go out and push that. BALANOFF: So let me...let move this idea and...let me put that flag up and see where it goes.

Balanoff testified Tuesday he never had any intention of looking into Blagojevich's idea.

On cross examination, Balanoff acknowledged Blagojevich never explicitly said he'd appoint Jarrett in exchange for personal benefits or favors.

Balanoff also testified that state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias told him in passing, "Maybe (Blagojevich will) appoint me."

When Balanoff told the governor this, he says Blagojevich responded with a expletives aimed at Giannoulias.

Giannoulias' current Senate campaign says his comment to Balanoff about being interested in the seat was made "half jokingly."

Meantime, Balanoff says Blagojevich also dismissed suggestions that Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky get the appointment.

He says Blagojevich told him he wanted to pick an African American, so the governor said - quote - "If Jan could show me she had any ancestors who came over on a slave ship, she'd be fine."

A statement from Schakowsky says the comment "demonstrates Blagojevich's cynical attitude toward the African-American community.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2010

Former Chicago Police Officer Convicted of Lying About Torture

A federal jury has convicted former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge of perjury and obstruction of justice charges of lying about the torture of suspects.

Jurors delivered their verdict Monday. Burge now faces up to 45 years in prison.

Burge was accused of lying in a civil suit when he said he'd never seen or participated in the physical abuse of suspects in order to get confessions.

The decorated former lieutenant had testified in his own defense, pitting his word against that of five men who claimed Burge and his officers shocked, suffocated and beat them in the 1970s and 1980s.

Burge was fired from the police department in 1993 over the alleged mistreatment of a suspect. He never was criminally charged in the case.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 17, 2010

Former Blagojevich Donor Testifies at Corruption Trial

There's no action Friday in the corruption trial of ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Testimony this week concluded on Thursday with the jury hearing from a former Blagojevich donor.who scored a job leading a state agency.

Ali Ata says in 2002 and 2003, he twice donated $25,000 to Blagojevich's campaign...each time having conversations with the governor that included vague talk of a state job.

With support from Blagojevich and his now-convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko, Ata was appointed executive director of the newly-created Illinois Finance Authority.

The ex-governor's attorney, Sam Adam, Junior, asked Ata several times whether Blagojevich ever told him he needed to contribute to get the state job.

Ata repeatedly said no.

That continued line of questioning clearly frustrated Judge James Zagel.

The judge told Adam that if he didn't think the jury understood that argument by now, "then you should just give up all hope".

Zagel made the remark in front of jurors - some of whom laughed.

Ata returns to the stand on Monday when trial resumes.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 16, 2010

Blago Trial to Feature More Testimony of Fundraiser Cari on Thursday

Prosecutors in the corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will continue to question Joseph Cari Thursday morning. Cari is a former Democratic big-wig who previously pleaded guilty to attempted extortion.

Cari managed fund-raising during Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000.

So - Cari testified Wednesday - when he found himself on a private plane headed to New York with Blagojevich back in 2003, the governor asked him about setting up a national fundraising operation.

Cari says, on the flight, Blagojevich told him that, as governor, he could raise big bucks by giving out state contracts, and hitting up those businesses for donations.

Cari told the same story two years ago during the corruption trial of Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko.

On Thursday, Cari will likely detail the extortion attempt he's pleaded guilty to involving a state pension board.

Prosecutors say that was part of a broad conspiracy Governor Blagojevich took part in to enrich his campaign, himself and others.

Cari is cooperating with the government in exchange for a lighter prison sentence for himself.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 10, 2010

Testimony in Blagojevich Trial Continues; Wife May Be Asked to Leave at Certain Points

Prosecutors say they'll ask that the wife of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich leave the courtroom at her husband's corruption trial when testimony about her comes up.

The often stone-faced Patti Blagojevich has sat in the courtroom since the trial began. She's arrived each day with her husband, often holding hands as they enter the Chicago courthouse.

But according to procedures established earlier, she's supposed to leave when certain testimony arises.

She's in the courtroom Thursday as the former governor's first chief of staff, Alonzo Monk, testifies for a second day.

Judge James Zagel says he'll rule on whether she'll have to step outside right before the testimony that involves her. A defense attorney for Blagojevich has said she'll testify in the trial.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 08, 2010

Blagojevich Trial Begins with Jury Seated

The judge in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has seated a jury.

Judge James B. Zagel named 18 jurors -- a panel of 12 and six alternates. The judge postponed an immediate decision on a request by Blagojevich's attorneys to dismiss fraud and racketeering charges against him. The former governor has pleaded not guilty to profiting from his power by trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. Opening statements are now expected to begin.

The ex-governor appeared upbeat earlier as he made his way through the courthouse security and addressed reporters in the lobby.

Interest in the trial was high. The main courtroom in downtown Chicago and another overflow courtroom with audio feeds from the trial were filled to capacity.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 05, 2010

Truck Driver Who Caused Fatal I-57 Crash To Be Ticketed

A Louisiana truck driver will be ticketed for reckless driving and two other violations for causing the Memorial Day crash on Interstate 57 near Mattoon that killed three people and left 13 others injured.

55-year old Everett Van Duzee of New Liberia, Louisiana was also ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash, and given a log book violation for a discrepancy in the amount of hours he'd driven. In their report on the crash released Friday night, Illinois State Police say traffic was merging to one lane due to construction that afternoon, and that Duzee had 'became distracted and took his eyes off the roadway.' He hit three vehicles, and caused five more to crash. Three women from Mississippi died - 61 year old Sheila Douglas of Batesville, 68 year old Doris Hamblin-Mayo of Sarah, Miss. and 80-year old Juanita Hall, also of Sarah. Two injured victims remained hospitalized.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2010

Jurors Answer Judge’s Questions as Blagojevich Trial kicks Off

The judge in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has begun questioning potential jurors for the case.

Among the first questions Judge James Zagel asked them today were whether they had read much about the case and whether they could set aside any preconceived notions about Blagojevich.

The former governor is accused of scheming to profit from his power to fill President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. He denies any wrongdoing.

One potential juror said she had seen the former governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, on a reality TV show eating a bug.

Jurors were referred to in the courtroom by numbers only. Zagel plans to keep the jury anonymous until after the trial and denied a request by news organizations to reverse that.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Blagojevich Corruption Trial Starts Thursday with Jury Selection

18 months after his arrest on federal corruption charges, jury selection begins Thursday in Chicago in the trial of Rod Blagojevich. The former Illinois governor is charged with trying to trade state decisions and appointments for cash and political favors --- including an appointment to the President Obama's old Senate seat.

A University of Illinois law professor says a major point of contention in the Blagojevich trial will be the link between favors granted by the former governor and requests for campaign donations and favors.

Professor Andrew Leipold says he thinks arguments by the defense will not focus on what Blagojevich said, but on what those statements mean.

"When the former governor said X, did he mean, 'and if you don't give me money I won't do it', says Leipold. "Or was he discussing two different topics: 'I'm prepared to do this'; and perhaps separately, 'Are you going to be contributing to my campaign, because we're doing a lot of good work, and I would value your support'."

Leipold says that question will make testimony by someone like former Blagojevich aide Lon Monk especially important ... because he would be in a position to know the former governor's intentions. Monk is cooperating with federal prosecutors in the Blagojevich trial.

Meanwhile, while opening arguments in the trial are still days away, Blagojevich has been make his cause before the public,w ith TV and radio appearances, and the publication of a book.

Leipold says it's an unusual move for a defendant in a trial.

"The notion that your client would be out going on talk shows and on the radio and on reality television is normally not something that defense lawyers would encourage", says Leipold. "Anything the governor says in any of his many, many, many public appearances are fair game, in the sense that if he says something that turns out to be different that what he says at trial, then he's subject to impeachment by that."

And Leipold says it's clear that Blagojevich intends to testify in his own defense at the trial. It will be Blagojevich's word against his words recorded in wiretapped conversations that prosecutors say show the former governor engaging in a "public corruption crime spree".

But Leipold says he expects the defense to argue that Blagojevich's requests for money and political favors were not connected to any of his actions as governor.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Blagojevich Trial Will Go On Despite Defense Request

A federal judge in Chicago today turned down a last-minute request for a delay in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial and told his attorneys to get ready to start picking a jury tomorrow.

The impeached Illinois governor's racketeering and fraud trial is set to get under way following 18 months of skirmishing in the courts and the media.

Blagojevich and his brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, have pleaded not guilty. They're accused of scheming to profit from the governor's power to fill the U.S. Senate seat that President Barack Obama vacated following his November 2008 election.

Blagojevich's lawyers contend they've been swamped by as many as nine million pages of documents, 270 hours of tapes and summaries of interviews with more than 700 people. They say they haven't had time to prepare.


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