Federal corruption trial of Rod Blagojevich begins

This has the potential to be very messy for a lot of folks.”

— Andy Shaw, Executive Director of the Better Government Association

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich arrived at the Dirksen U.S. Federal Court House today telling the crowd for the prosecutor to "play the tapes... They are liars..."

The U.S. Marshall Service had secured a path for Blagojevich with yellow tape in order to prevent it from becoming a circus. That quickly deteriorated as he decided step outside the area to greet supporters wishing him good luck.

"Rod, we love you" could be heard from the crowd as he entered the building.

Rob Blagojevich, the brother of Rod, arrived earlier and said "I expect to be vindicated" of all charges. He offered no other comments.

Jury selection in the corruption trial of Rod Blagojevich resumed this afternoon with Judge James B. Zagel quizzing candidates on their reading and TV-viewing habits to gauge how much they might know about the case.

Zagel has ruled that jurors' identities will not be disclosed until the end of the trial, so he referred to them by numbers.

Number 102 was a black female in her 50s who said she once did campaign work for Ald. Sandi Jackson, wife of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. who has been subpoenaed by the defense to testify in the case.

Number 102 said she knew that Patti Blagojevich had appeared on a reality TV show . “I know she was on,” the woman said. “Something about some bugs or something.”
The woman also said she had a vague recollection that “Mr. Blagojevich was on some kind of reality show or something, too, but I can’t remember what that was.”

Juror No. 111, an international flight attendant, told Zagel she watches TV news. “I usually watch it for the weather,” she answered.

Blagojevich defense promises to be anything but bland

Ex-governor has always shown flair for dramatic — and that includes his choice of attorneys to defend him at corruption trial

At a bond hearing for a man accused of murder in the disappearance of his wife 20 years earlier, attorney Sam Adam Jr. showed up at the Criminal Courts Building with something up his sleeve.

It was a stack of "missing" posters he had made with the face of the alleged victim on each sheet, a prop Adam designed for the benefit of news reporters and TV cameras.

Among the 24 counts of fraud, conspiracy, bribery and racketeering that could land Blagojevich a long prison sentence are charges he dangled President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder or demanded a cabinet post for himself in exchange for naming an Obama aide to the seat.

Since his arrest at dawn on December 9, 2008, Blagojevich has repeated his mantra of innocence in nonstop interviews, in a book, on the airwaves as a local disc jockey, and to anyone who would listen on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" television show.

Married with two young daughters, the 53-year-old former two-term Democrat governor and, before that, three-term U.S. representative said he is trying to make a living since being impeached and ousted last year by the state legislature.

As jury selection in the corruption trial of Rod R. Blagojevich begins on Thursday, people here are less curious about what they may learn about the impeached former Illinois governor than they are about who else will be tainted in the proceedings.

The trial may finally open a window into Mr. Blagojevich’s interactions with other politicians and political strategists, business and union leaders and others. Consider a tantalizing detail: Much of the prosecution’s case is expected to center on phone calls federal agents secretly recorded; through roughly 500 hours of recordings of Mr. Blagojevich’s conversations, most of which have never been made public, someone was on the other end of the line.

Play the tapes... They are liars...”

— Rod Blagojevich

Finally, 18 months after the arrest of Rod R. Blagojevich, the ousted former governor of Illinois, he found himself seated at a table in a courtroom here Thursday, staring at the people who may decide his fate.
Jeff Haynes/Getty Images

Rod R. Blagojevich, who faces 24 corruption charges, arrived Thursday at court in Chicago.
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In Blagojevich Corruption Trial, a Political Window (June 3, 2010)

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As a judge questioned potential jurors on the first day of Mr. Blagojevich’s corruption trial, the former governor, who also happens to have a law degree, frenetically jotted notes — more, it appeared, than were taken by the half-dozen other lawyers at his defense table. For a politician who has never passed up a hand that might be shaken, this would be the ultimate campaign.

ury selection began in the case of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich today — and not surprisingly, all seven potential jurors questioned so far said they had heard something about the case.

One woman said she watched a reality TV show involving “Mrs. Blagojevich,” referring to Patti Blagojevich’s stint last year on “I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!”

“Something about some bugs or something?” the woman said to U.S. District Judge James Zagel. Rod Blagojevich laughed and turned to look at Patti, who was sitting in the front row.

His brother, Rob, who is also on trial and sitting behind the ex-governor, was not smiling.

About 10 purposeful steps can get someone from the curb of Dearborn Street to the front entrance of the Dirksen Federal Building — an easy enough hike for an average Chicagoan on an average day.
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José Moré/Chicago News Cooperative

The distance between a defendant’s car and the Dirksen Federal Building can be a treacherous stretch, and those on trial take different approaches. Above, former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on Thursday.

But as he made his way out of a car on Thursday for the first day of jury selection for his political corruption trial, former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich showed that, for high-profile defendants, traversing that 30 feet of pavement can be much trickier.