Local

Prosecution rests in Blagojevich trial

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On the final day of prosecution testimony, a lobbyist told jurors Rod Blagojevich wanted a job in exchange for appointing President Barack Obama's choice to the U.S. Senate.

(Download Blagojevich trial documents at justice.gov as they are entered into evidence. )

"I thought it was very transparent," said John Wyma. "There was no way to make it not linked to the Senate seat."

Wyma testified on Tuesday at the corruption trial of the former governor, who is accused of trying to sell or trade the seat left vacant by then president-elect Obama in 2008. On Tuesday, the prosecution rested in the case.

Jurors will be off until next Monday, July 19, at which time the defense will take its turn. Judge James Zagel delayed the start to allow defense attorneys time to gather their witnesses, who were not expecting to be called until August.

Wyma said in 2008, Obama adviser Rahm Emanuel called him to say Obama "would value and appreciate Valerie Jarrett in the Senate seat."

Wyma said he then called the governor, but couldn't reach him so he relayed the message through Blagojevich's former chief of staff John Harris, who testified in the trial at the end of June.

Wyma told jurors Harris said he agreed with Wyma that Jarrett would make a good senator, but Harris told Wyma that the governor's "decision matrix " wasn't the same. Wyma said Harris told him, "he'd relay my message unedited and unabridged."

The Senate seat was discussed once again in November 2008 when former deputy governor Doug Scofield, who also testified in the trial, called Wyma.

"Mr. Scofield said he was calling on behalf of the governor. It was unusual because we tended to speak directly," said Wyma.

In the phone call, Scofield told Wyma about the governor's idea for getting a non-profit job and asked Wyma to relay the message to Emanuel.

"The call didn't make much sense to me. It was very awkward. It would look like the two were connected so I told Doug I would think about it. I called him back and told him I was confused by the call. How would he handle it," said Wyma on the stand.

Scofield suggested that Wyma preface his talk with Rahm about the nonprofit job and, according to Scofield, said "this has absolutely nothing to do with the Senate seat-- let me be clear-- but when he is out of office he'd like to work for this non profit."

Wyma testified he never approached Emanuel about it because he thought "that was the most artful way you could express a really bad idea."

When asked by prosecutors if, based on what Scofield said, he thought the non-profit job was related to the U.S. Senate seat appointment, Wyma said he believed the premise of the call was how to get the notion of an appointment for Blagojevich into Emanuel's head without making it look like it was connected to the Senate seat.

"I thought it was very transparent. There was no way to make it not linked with the senate seat. I was unwilling to do it," said Wyma.

Why Wyma went to the FBI

Earlier Tuesday, Wyma told jurors he went to the FBI because he was "increasingly alarmed" by the former governor's fundraising.

John Wyma took the stand at the corruption trial of the former Illinois governor on Tuesday. He testified Blagojevich told him he wanted money donated to his campaign in exchange for state business.

Wyma said he was led to believe his clients could do business with the state through the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) if they made campaign contributions to Blagojevich.

"My understanding was that it would be a $50,000 campaign contribution to Friends of Blagojevich (FOB) to get on this Teachers Retirement System list," Wyma said. He also said he never went to his clients with the message because it was "obviously wrong."

He also said that when one of Blagojevich's aides asked him for advice on getting Rahm Emanuel to throw a fundraiser, he kept quiet and did not go to Emanuel or tell the ex-governor how he felt.

Wyma testified, "When he got in those places he had a tendency to dig in on issues. When he got to that place it was difficult to move him."

Wyma said he eventually pulled out of fundraising for FOB because he was "increasingly alarmed at the level of aggressiveness in the fundraising."

Wyma then began cooperating with the FBI, which led to the investigation. He said he told federal agents about meetings on October 6 and 8 in 2008 in which Blagojevich asked him to follow up with Patrick Magoon, CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital, on a campaign contribution in exchange while legislation involving the hospital was pending. Count 15 revolves around the allegation. Wyma said Blagojevich told him, "He wanted to get Magoon for $50,000."

He also gave them a voicemail left by Blagojevich's brother, Robert, in which he asks Wyma to follow up with Magoon. It was played in court Tuesday.

Magoon took the stand after Wyma on Tuesday. He said Robert Blagojevich called him to ask him to hold a fundraiser to raise $25,000 for Blagojevich after the governor signed off on the pending legislation.

Magoon said he believed the two to be linked and felt threatened and angry that "the governor had authority to commit or rescind a commitment."

Wyma was asked to wear a wiretap in October, but refused. However, he attended the fundraising meeting on behalf of the FBI, he said.

Jurors watch video of Blago's oaths of office

Just before calling Wyma to testify, prosecutors played videos of Blagojevich taking the oath of office in 2003 at his first inaugural and in 2007, when he was re-elected. Prosecutors suggested Blagojevich had violated the oath to "faithfully discharge the duties of the office of governor."

After five weeks of trial, the government rested its case Tuesday.

Judge James Zagel did not immediately rule on a defense request for a delay so they will have more time to gather witnesses, many of whom require extra security, for the trial. Zagel planned to give a couple of days to review the tapes that the defense would like to play during their case.

There will be a hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday to go over the edited version of the tapes that the defense would like to play.

Jurors will return on Monday.

(Download Blagojevich trial documents at justice.gov as they are entered into evidence. )

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Get more Local »


Tags:
rod blagojevich, local
blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement