Feds want Blago corruption evidence kept sealed

 
Posted4/6/2010 12:01 AM

Prosecutors requested permission Monday to file a document outlining their corruption case against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich under seal in order to keep evidence secret.

They apparently acted in an effort to prevent the defense from claiming later that potential jurors were prejudiced by the release of explosive evidence only two months before the trial was to start.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The government said in its three-paragraph request to the court it was acting "in an abundance of caution" to allow the defense and the judge to review the evidence before potential jurors could hear about it through the news media.

Much of the evidence against the impeached governor and his brother, Robert Blagojevich, was made public at the trial of convicted fixer Tony Rezko and in court papers already filed in the Blagojevich case, the government said.

Prosecutors said, however, that they wanted to be particularly careful with remaining evidence since the first steps in the jury selection process, largely conducted by mail, are under way or soon will be.

Blagojevich is charged with scheming to sell or trade President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and using the powers of the governor's office to raise campaign funds illegally.

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Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said he had no opinion on whether the document should be filed under seal.

"Who am I to say, I have no idea, I don't know what's in it," Sorosky said. "There is a lot of evidence that we've received that is not public."

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

The document -- known to lawyers as a Santiago Proffer -- seeks to convince the court that the alleged crimes were part of a conspiracy and for that reason statements by alleged co-conspirators should be allowed in evidence.

Such proffers often form the best blueprint of the prosecution's evidence and strategy, at least from the perspective of trial watchers.

While they have often been made public, there have been exceptions. Prosecutors sought to have the Santiago Proffer in the 2007 Operation Family Secrets case, the biggest organized crime case in Chicago in decades, kept under seal. Witnesses might fear mob retaliation and refuse to testify if their names were revealed before trial, they said.

Zagel, who presided over that case, ordered a redacted version made public.