Judge in Rod Blagojevich Trial Disallows Most Tapes Requested by Defense Lawyers

Excluded on the grounds of uselessness.”

— Judge James Zagel

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's push for more than three dozen government recordings of him to be played during his defense case got off to a rocky start Wednesday as a federal judge blocked the jury from hearing many of the conversations.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel at times seemed to search for new ways to call the recordings irrelevant to Blagojevich's corruption trial.

"Excluded on the grounds of uselessness," he said of one transcript.

"It's basically professional politician's chatter," he said of another.

Rod Blagojevich's lawyers urged the federal judge presiding at his corruption trial on Wednesday to allow them to play more than three dozen tapes made from FBI wiretaps that jurors haven't yet heard — and which they say explain some of the evidence.

But attorneys for the ousted Illinois governor struggled at a three-hour hearing before a skeptical Judge James B. Zagel, who said he didn't want jurors hearing any of the tapes unless they were relevant and could be relied on to provide facts and not mere rhetoric.

"He was basically a professional politician chattering — that's really not relevant," Zagel said in ruling out one tape on which Blagojevich is heard talking with an adviser.