Rod Blagojevich Trial: Construction Executive Testifies to Shakedown By Rod Blagojevich

She [my wife] cannot talk, she cannot write, she loses her balance ... and I wanted to get the FBI out of my house and I told them that. I just wanted to get the FBI out of my house.”

— Gerry Krozel

The good news for you guys is -- which is the bad news for us -- after the first of the year this level of ... you know ... we won't be able to bully you guys.”

— Rod Blagojevich

Road building executive Gerry Krozel is back on the stand this morning. He's testifying about allegations that Rod Blagojevich tried to shake him down in exchange for rolling out a $6 billion public works project that would benefit his ailing industry.

Jurors just heard a tape from Oct. 22, 2008. Blagojevich, sitting in a room with Lon Monk, calls Krozel on speaker phone to follow up on earlier talks about the road building exec fund-raising for the governor.

Blago on tape: "Lon is here with me, so we just thought we'd say hello. How are you doing? We've got this end-of-the year deadline. The rules change after Jan. 1."

In what is shaping up to be one of the more heated cross-examinations we've seen, Gerry Krozel is being grilled about his statements to federal investigators in 2008 and 2009.

Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein points out that nowhere in Krozel's grand jury statement did he say Rod Blagojevich told him the $6 billion Illinois Tollway project would be announced in January 2009.

Krozel: "When I left that office, I was under the impression it would be January of next year."
Goldstein: "You were under the impression but Rod Blagojevich never told you."

When federal investigators came to Gerry Krozel's house in the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 2008 -- the day the governor was arrested -- he was "terrified" and lied to get them to leave his house, the road building executive has testified.

Krozel's cross-examination - growing fiery at times - has focused largely on discrepancies between his statements to investigators and his testimony today.

Blago attorney Aaron Goldstein presses an increasingly flustered Krozel on his testimony that he felt pressured to contribute to Blagojevich in connection to the Tollway project, noting that he told the FBI in December 2008 that he did not feel pressured.

Blagojevich lawyer Aaron Goldstein has concluded an often testy cross-examination of road-building executive Gerald Krozel that appeared to have Krozel on the ropes but may have gone one question too far.

Goldstein poked at inconsistencies in the statements Krozel gave to the FBI and a federal grand jury about his interactions with Blagojevich concerning fundraising demands and a big tollway expansion project.

Goldstein took Krozel back more than two decades to an encounter he had with then-Gov. James R. Thompson over a road-resurfacing project for the Eisenhower Expressway. Krozel acknowledged that Thompson had advised him back then that “you’ve got to get politically involved.” Krozel’s company later contributed campaign cash to Thompson and others, and the project got underway.

The point Goldstein was clearly trying to stress was that Krozel’s encounter with Thompson wasn’t that different from conversations the road builder had with Blagojevich in 2008 that prosecutors claim were part of a shakedown for campaign cash connected to a $6-billion tollway expansion project.

Goldstein appeared to make headway in punching holes in some of Krozel’s earlier testimony. Krozel claimed that he felt Blagojevich was delaying announcement of the expansion plan until after new, restrictive limits on Blagojevich’s fundraising ability went into effect Jan. 1, 2009. The point, as Krozel had relayed it to jurors, was that Blagojevich wanted fundraising help before that date and delaying the announcement raised the ante by telegraphing that the fundraising and announcement were linked.