Before the lunch break, prosecutors turned the questioning to yet another alleged shakedown by Blagojevich -- this one involving then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel and an experimental school on the Northwest Side operated by the Academy for Urban School Leadership.
Emanuel, now the White House chief of staff, had long been a close political ally of Blagojevich and even was elected to succeed Blagojevich in Congress when he became governor. The academy facility at 3400 N. Austin Blvd. was in Emanuel’s district, which of course was Blagojevich’s old district too.
The academy, which trains future teachers and focuses on developing programs to fix failing schools, operated out of a 250,000-square-foot building but had no athletic field for the elementary and high school students who also went to school there.
Dr. Donald Feinstein, the academy head, said plans were developed to transform a parking lot into an athletic field at a cost of $2 million. The school turned to Emanuel for help, and he secured the promise of a state grant for that amount from his friend Blagojevich.