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Blagojevich retrial: Less is more for prosecution

Friday, May 13, 2011

In the second corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich, the prosecution has left out a lot of evidence that was presented in the first in an effort to streamline their case.

Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 charges in this second trial. Last year, he was convicted on only one count- lying to the FBI. Jurors were hung on the 23 others.

The government's case the second time around is faster and leaner as the second full week of testimony ended Thursday. Much of the evidence centers around conversations Blagojevich had with his top aides that were secretly recorded by the FBI. In this second trial, not as many of those tapes are being played.

At the first trial, when former deputy governor Bob Greenlee testified, jurors learned that Blagojevich showed up at his government office no more than 2 to 8 hours a week. His underlings often didn't know where he was, and he once hid in the bathroom to avoid his budget director.

Greenlee is finished testifying for the prosecution, and those tapes have not been played.

In another tape from the first trial that made headlines-- but not the second trial -- Blagojevich talked about naming Oprah Winfrey to the Senate seat that he's accused of trying to sell.

Blagojevich said, "She's the kingmaker. She made Obama we know she's a democrat."

Another section of tape that was skipped in Blagojevich Trial 2 refers to then President-elect Barack Obama as a "demi-god." There's been no mention of Blagojevich's alleged pressure tactics on the Tribune editorial board, no detailed accounting of alleged backdoor money paid to the real estate business owned by Blagojevich's wife, Patti.

The second trial still shows the Blagojevich's spent a lot of money on clothes, but fewer beads and bangles were shown this time around.

That's all by prosecution design.

"It's all part of the streamlining decision. We're gonna keep it straight forward. We're going to keep it simple, we're going to go to the heart of the matter. Let's talk about selling the Senate seat, the sexiest stuff right up front so the jury makes up its mind early on that this guy is a crook, and the rest of the stuff will sort of fall into place behind that," said Prof. Leonard Cavise, DePaul college of Law.

At the end of each day's testimony in this second trial, Blagojevich has made a brief comment in front of cameras and taken no questions. This time, there's no crowd of fans or curiosity seekers.

One day earlier this week, there was but one supporter, only two cameras. A passing tour bus operator announced, "There's the former governor of Illinois." Blagojevich waved. There were only two people on the bus.

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