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Judge tells Blago attorney, 'Don't go there'

Monday, May 09, 2011

A defense attorney for the former governor was reprimanded several times Monday during the cross examination of Rod Blagojevich's former chief of staff.

Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein challenged John Harris' credibility Monday during Blagojevich's second corruption trial. Harris and Blagojevich were both arrested on corruption charges in December 2008. Harris has already pleaded guilty and is now working with prosecutors.

Goldstein sought to portray Harris as a witness who should not be believed. He wasted little time before asking Harris about his plea deal with the prosecution. Harris said on the stand Monday morning that in exchange for testifying against his former boss, prosecutors will recommend a shorter prison sentence -- 35 months instead of 70 to 87 months -- for Harris.

"My relationship with the government is to cooperate as part of my plea agreement," Harris said Monday. He also acknowledged that he lied to the FBI when he was arrested.

Goldstein: "You do not want to be incarcerated to you Mr. Harris?

Harris: "Of course not."

Goldstein: "You'd do anything for your family, wouldn't you?"

Prosecutor: "Objection."

Goldstein appears to be trying to bring in evidence through his questions.

More than once, Judge Zagel said, "Don't do that."

Prosecutors objected more than 100 times to Harris' questioning. Judge James Zagel sustained most of those and warned Goldstein, "Don't go there."

"I was just trying to copy what the government does, but that's not working," Goldstein said.

In his cross of Harris, Goldstein asks, "Is it fair to say most of this is shooting the breeze about politics?" That, too, was met with an objection from prosecutors.

Goldstein is trying to show that Blagojevich spoke about everything- but got nothing.

Harris spent three days on the stand last week talking about allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell or trade a U.S. Senate seat appointment for campaign cash or a high-paying job for himself. Phone calls between Harris and Blagojevich that were secretly recorded by the FBI were played in court.

Prosecution chose not to do a redirect on Harris. Tom Balanoff, the president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was called to the stand next. He also spoke about Blagojevich's alleged attempt to sell the Obama Senate seat and jurors heard more tapes in the case- including one call between Blagojevich and his wife, Patti.

During Balanoff's cross examination, Goldstein's questions continued to generate objections from the prosecution. They were sustained, and Judge Zagel said "I'm close to sitting you down. Don't do this."

Blagojevich, 54, denies any wrongdoing. He faces 20 charges.

Last year, Blagojevich's first trial ended with one conviction of lying to the FBI. The jury was hung on all 23 other counts.

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