The Rod Blagojevich Trial

Jun 9, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Politics

The Rod Blagojevich trial is well under way. Chicago Loopster updates you on the former governor’s scandal, his claims that he’s innocent of trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat and the public appearances he has made since his arrest.

The Blagojevich trial

Jun 3, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Politics

Photo by Jessica Chen/MEDILL

With Rod Blagojevich’s trial scheduled to start, Chicago Loopster takes a look back at the scandal that brought the former governor down. What are the charges? What is his defense? And what can the public expect?

Illinois, its governors and their scandals

Jun 3, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Politics, Rod Blagojevich

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The background on Blagojevich

Jun 3, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Politics, Rod Blagojevich

Photo by Jessica Chen/MEDILL

The Allegations

The Blagojevich scandal first broke when federal prosecutors, led by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, charged 16 felony counts against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich during the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 2008. Blagojevich was accused of trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, and charges included racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. In Feb. 2010, a federal grand jury in Chicago re-indicted Blagojevich on eight new charges, including racketeering and bribery, bringing the total number of charges to 24.

Immediately after the arrest, prominent Illinois lawmakers, including then Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, attorney general Lisa Madigan and state Republicans called for Blagojevich’s resignation. Democrat State Rep. John Fritchey told CBS News he thought impeachment proceedings should begin if Blagojevich did not step down.

Blagojevich emphatically maintained his innocence and refused to resign. This led the Illinois House of Representatives to impeach Blagojevich by a vote of 114-1 on Jan. 9, 2009, making him the first Illinois governor to be impeached. The House took action for Blagojevich’s “abuse of power” in “a plot to obtain a personal benefit in exchange for his appointment to fill the vacant seat in the United States Senate,” according to a MSNBC article. The trial was then taken up by the Illinois Senate, which came back with a guilty verdict with a vote of 59-0. In a public response, Blagojevich said he knew he would be impeached.

“The fix was in from the very beginning,” said Blagojevich, according to ABC News.

Since his arrest, Blagojevich and his wife Patti have been on a crusade to exonerate his name in the court of public opinion through appearances in reality TV shows and interviews with various media outlets. He has steadfastly sought his day in court to prove his innocence.

“I’m telling you now I am an honest man,” Blagojevich said in an interview with WLS-AM Sunday. “The government will not be able to show that I took one… penny that I wasn’t entitled to. Whether you voted for me or not… you should know I did not do these things and I am an honest man.”

Blagojevich isn’t the only one who has faced scrutiny in the controversy. Roland Burris, whom Blagojevich appointed after being arrested, was cleared of legal wrongdoing in the case by the U.S. Senate ethics panel. Christopher Kelly, a Blagojevich aide who was set to go to trial with the former governor, committed suicide in Sept. 2009.

Recent Rulings
With Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial scheduled to start June 3, two separate recent rulings both denied the defense team’s motions to delay the start of the trial. The latest attempt to delay the proceedings occurred May 25, when the defense team alleged U.S. District Judge James Zagel mishandled the jury selection process. This motion fell alongside a separate petition filed on May 19, currently under review with the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court must decide whether the “honest services” provision of the fraud law, which Blagojevich is being accused of, is constitutional.

“U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he was following normal procedure when he dismissed scores of would-be jurors who answered a mailing by saying they couldn’t serve on a long trial because it would be a financial hardship,” according to the Chicago Tribune. The Supreme Court also denied Blagojevich’s request the next day without comment, but is still expected to deliver a final opinion about the fraud law during the course of the trial.

Next Step: a Jury
Despite the massive amount of publicity this case has garnered over the past 18 months, Andrew Leipold, law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, does not think it will be too difficult to find impartial jurors.

“The test of course, is not whether they’ve heard about the case, but whether they could be fair,” said Leipold. “Whether they could put whatever they’ve heard aside and listen, and base things only on the information presented to them in court. How likely is that? … I think if you ask most people, they would say, ‘Well, yeah, I’ll just listen to what’s presented.’”

What to Expect
Leipold said the onus is on the government to prove its claims. Like many high-profile cases, he said, the trial will consist of long periods of legal wranglings most people will be uninterested in, punctuated by moments of high drama.

“Listening to the actual recordings of the conversations, I expect will make pretty good theater,” Leipold said. A summary of the original complaint can be found here.

The defense might try to contextualize Blagovejich’s now infamous conversations to claim he was working within the scope of the governor’s daily job of politicking on behalf of the state.

“I think they’ll try to say, ‘Look this is just politics,’” said Leipold. “‘This is how you have to get things done. You reward the people that support you because that’s the only way you have to gather support for the things you think are important for the people of Illinois. So you need to the see the governor governing.’”

Rod Blagojevich goes on the record

Jun 3, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Politics, Rod Blagojevich

Since Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell the vacant Senate seat of President Barack Obama, Blagojevich has been a staple in the media, often in front of a camera, trying to clear his name. In a series of high- and low-profile appearances, Blagojevich staked out his defense while providing some bizarre moments along the way. Here are some of the more memorable quotes and best videos featuring the former governor.

“I’ve got this thing and it’s f–ing golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for f—in’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there.”
-Blagojevich on Obama’s Senate seat replacement, November 5, 2008
“They’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F— them.”
-On the Obama administration’s political offers regarding the Senate seat replacement, November 11, 2008
“I … have this need to tell everyone and anyone who would listen that I didn’t do anything wrong and that I am innocent of any criminal wrongdoing.”
-Blagojevich, The Governor: Finally, the Truth Behind the Political Scandal That Continues to Rock the Nation, released September 8, 2009
“You know what’s interesting? How about this — I believe Galileo and Machiavelli are buried in the same church… Because a lot of what’s happened to me is Machiavellian, and yet my vision and the rightness of what I’ve done is kind of Galilean.”
-Blagojevich, Esquire interview, January 2010
“Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter. 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.”
-Blagojevich, Esquire interview, January 2010
“What I said was stupid, stupid, stupid…I deeply apologize for the way that was said and having said it. Obviously, I am not blacker than President Obama.”
-Blagojevich, apologizing for remarks made in his interview with Esquire, January 12, 2010
“For all the courage and testicular virility you think you have, if I did the things they said I did, and I did wrong things like they want you to believe I did, I would be nowhere near this event.”
-Blagojevich, giving a speech on ethics at Northwestern University, March 2, 2010
“Necessity compelled my wife to go to the Costa Rican jungle and eat tarantulas.”
-Blagojevich, giving a speech on ethics at Northwestern University, March 2, 2010
“We have a mortgage, we have bills to pay, credit card debt, kids in school … so Patti and I are doing the best we can to work through this and earn a living. We’ve been given these unique opportunities … to earn a living that most Americans who’ve lost their jobs didn’t get.”
-Blagojevich, in a press call, April 6, 2010

The highs and lows of Rod Blagojevich

Jun 3, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Politics, Rod Blagojevich

Before the American public saw Rod Blagojevich on dozens of talk shows, “Celebrity Apprentice” and “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here” over the past year and a half, he had a political career–filled with just as much drama as a reality TV show.

Rod Blagojevich on Dipity.

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Giannoulias Bank Scandal Shakes Up Senate Race

May 6, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Politics


Photo Source: Flickr

After a swift rise to the top of Illinois politics, State Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias seems poised for a megaflop at the polls this November. Family bank ceased by the feds? Check. Financial ties to convicted felons? Check. In this anti-bank climate, can Giannoulias do anything to convince voters to send him to Washington?

Probably not, but he’ll give it a try.

Timeline: Broadway Bank in the News

May 6, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Alexi Giannoulias, Archive, Politics
On Apr. 23, the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation seized Broadway Bank, a community bank owned by the family of Democratic Senate Candidate and Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. But to Giannoulias, the shuttering doesn’t come as a surprise. Giannoulias said back in March that it was likely Broadway Bank was going to fail. Now, the Giannoulias campaign is scrambling as Repbulican contender Mark Kirk has taken an eight-point lead, according to the latest polls.

Related Links

Chicago Reader: Giannoulias is Just Like Us | Chicago Reader: Curtains for Broadway Bank?