Blagojevich Attorneys Cross-Examine Ex-Aide
Defense attorneys at Rod Blagojevich's corruption retrial tried to chip away at the testimony of a former aide to the ousted governor Thursday, hinting that Blagojevich never intended to personally benefit from his ability to name a replacement for President Barack Obama in the Senate.
Robert Greenlee, who served as deputy governor under Blagojevich, looked flustered at times as defense attorney Aaron Goldstein peppered him with questions including, "Have you ever lied to the governor?"
Blagojevich sat forward on his defense-table chair listening intently, sometimes shaking his head at Greenlee's answers. At least once, he leaned across the table and appeared to suggest a question Goldstein should ask Greenlee.
Judge James Zagel warned the defense lawyer that his inquiry about whether Greenlee had ever lied to Blagojevich was too broad and could cover Greenlee lying to the governor about whether he liked his tie, for example.
Greenlee is a key prosecution witness on several charges, including that Blagojevich tried to sell or trade Obama's old Senate seat and that he squeezed a Children's Memorial Hospital CEO for campaign cash.
The defense pressed Greenlee about his testimony that Blagojevich ordered him - by using the circuitous words, 'Good to know' - to hold up a pediatric care reimbursement until the hospital executive came up with a large campaign donation.
"You understood 'good to know' meant stop the rate increase?" Goldstein asked. "Did you ask for clarification?"
"I didn't believe I needed clarification," Greenlee said.
Mocking Greenlee's claim that he took Blagojevich's words as an order, Goldstein prompted an objection by asking, "Mr. Greenlee, you speak English, is that correct?"
Greenlee testified that Blagojevich discussed appointing Obama's preferred candidate to the Senate seat, Valerie Jarrett, in exchange for a high-paying, high-powered government or private-sector job.
Once Jarrett took a job in the White House instead, Greenlee said Blagojevich and his aides turned to other possible candidates - and considered what they could do for the governor.
The defense repeatedly asked Greenlee about Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and whether Blagojevich had actually wanted to forge a legal political deal involving her.
But Zagel agreed to prosecutors' objections whenever Goldstein mentioned Madigan, telling Blagojevich's attorney the questions were "out of bounds." He suggested the defense could broach the topic if and when they put on their own case.
The defense has argued that in the weeks before his December 2008 arrest, Blagojevich pursued a legal deal to name Madigan to the seat in exchange for her father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, agreeing to push a legislative package favored by the then-governor.
Prosecutors say such talk by Blagojevich was merely a red herring and was never seriously considered.
Blagojevich denies any wrongdoing. His first trial ended with jurors deadlocked on all but one charge. He was convicted of lying to the FBI. This time, he faces 20 charges in all.