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Prosecutor to jury, Blago 'lied to you under oath'

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

During closing arguments, prosecutor Carrie Hamilton told jurors in the corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich to listen to all the FBI tapes again because ''it will make the defendant's guilt crystal clear.''

Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 counts -- solicitation of a bribe, extortion and wire fraud. Blagojevich is accused of squeezing campaign contributors and trying to sell or trade a U.S. Senate seat for personal gain. He denies any wrongdoing.

"Make no mistake, the defendant, Rod Blagojevich, tried to get personal benefits for himself in exchange for official duties," Hamilton said.

Speaking to the jury, Hamilton asked, "Did the defendant try to get a benefit for himself in exchange for an official act? That is really what this case boils down to."

Hamilton compared Blagojevich's actions to that of a police officer asking for a bribe. She said, "The law focuses on 'the ask,' not on whether there was a receipt. The law focuses on the squeeze."

Throughout the one-month trial, Blagojevich's defense attorneys have argued the former governor was all talk and never received anything from anyone.

"The harm is done when 'the ask' is made because that's the violation of the peoples' trust," Hamilton said. "The defense and this defendant don't want you to focus on the evidence in this case because if you do, you will find him guilty."

Focusing on the secretly recorded FBI tapes played during the trial, Hamilton said, "Go back and listen to all of the calls in chronological order, it will make the defendant's guilt crystal clear."

Blagojevich took the oath of office for the governor twice- once in 2003 and once in 2007. "Time and again, the defendant violated that oath," Hamilton said. She also accused Blagojevich of lying under oath while testifying at his corruption trial, "The defendant lied to you under oath in this courtroom... and he told some whoppers."

Once prosecutors have made their closing arguments, the defense will get its chance. After they are finished, prosecutors will have a chance to make a rebuttal. Then it goes to the jury, who were seated a little more than a month ago. They have agreed to hold court Friday of this week.

Prosecution recalls witnesses

Prosecutors began their rebuttal by calling Richard Olsen, the president of a construction company. They asked Olsen about a September 24, 2008 meeting he had with Blagojevich in which Olsen said they talked about two tollway projects-- a $1.8 billion project and a larger one planned for 2009. Blagojevich had testified that he and Olsen did not talk about the second project because Blagojevich did not support it.

Olsen said during the meeting at My Way restaurant, Blagojevich called himself the "best damn governor in the U.S."

Patrick Magoon, the president and CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital, was also called during the rebuttal to talk about allegations that Blagojevich tried to squeeze him for campaign donations. As were FBI agents.

Lipinski denies asking Jackson for campaign contribution

Former congressman Bill Lipinski said he never asked Jesse Jackson Jr. to give $25,000 to Rod Blagojevich's campaign.

Lipinski was called by the defense Wednesday in the former governor's corruption trial. Blagojevich, 54, is accused of trying to sell or trade a U.S. Senate seat appointment for personal gain- a top job or campaign contribution. He denies any wrongdoing.

Lipinski's testimony directly contradicts that of Jackson, who testified earlier in the trial that Lipinski approached him about making a $25,000 campaign contribution in 2002, when Blagojevich was first running for governor. Jackson said he thought passing on that donation cost his wife, Sandi Jackson, a state job.

During the cross-examination by prosecutors, Lipinski said he doesn't remember everyone he approached to support Blagojevich in 2002.

Lipinski is one of three witnesses the Blagojevich defense had left to call. The others are Sameer Talcherkar, who worked on obtaining funding for Chicago Academy school grant, and FBI agent John Rouske. Blagojevich testified in his own defense for seven days, finishing on Tuesday.

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rod blagojevich, local, paul meincke
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