Blagojevich jury hears expletive-laden recordings
Prosecutors at Rod Blagojevich's corruption retrial circled back Tuesday to a golden place they'd been before -- playing the most notorious and much parodied FBI recording of the ousted Illinois governor.
Jurors followed along with transcripts across their laps as prosecutors played recordings of Blagojevich allegedly talking about trading President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash or a top job.
"I mean, I've got this thing and it's (bleeping) golden," Blagojevich says excitedly to an aide, Doug Scofield, the day after Obama's election in 2008. "And I'm just not giving it up for (bleeping) nothing. I'm not going to do it."
As the then-governor was heard cursing over courtroom speakers, Blagojevich sat at the defense table and covered his eyes momentarily in apparent embarrassment, smiled meekly and shook his head as he looked at jurors across the room.
Also Tuesday, IRS agent Shari Schindler described how Blagojevich and his wife, Patti, slipped deeper into debt in the years before his Dec. 9, 2008, arrest -- testimony that is an attempt to establish a motive for the then-governor's desperation to make money.
But strikingly, Schindler did not go into any of the detail she offered jurors at the first trial of how the Blagojeviches spent more than $400,000 on tailored suits, furs and other fines clothes in a six-year shopping spree.
The defense has complained that evidence was introduced merely to cast their client in a bad light and hinted that their spending money may have been ill-gotten. At one recent hearing, Judge James Zagel also told prosecutors that devoting so much time to the clothing details "was over the top."
Just before Schindler took the stand, prosecutors played another recording in which Blagojevich -- as furious as ever on a recording heard in court -- rails about everyone leaving him behind and needing to make money. He curses again as he rants that he's stuck being governor and can't afford college for his daughter.
That particular passage drew raised eyebrows from at least one juror, who looked askew at the former governor as it was being played.
A second week into testimony, prosecutors continued to focus almost wholly on the Senate seat allegation. The government didn't delve into it for several weeks at the first trial.
Blagojevich's first trial last year ended in deadlock, with jurors agreeing only to convict him for lying to the FBI. Blagojevich faces 20 charges at his retrial.
Prosecutors have relied heavily on recordings as they try and prove the Senate seat allegation. But they also appear to be leaving out some excerpts they may have concluded are extraneous or distracting.
They played one Nov. 11 phone conversation on Tuesday with Scofield, for instance, but did not play some sections that had been played at last year's trial. In one part not played when Scofield was on the stand this time, Blagojevich fixates on how Obama's success has left him in the dust.
"He's a demigod now," Blagojevich says in the full excerpt released during the last trial.
Blagojevich seems almost giddy at times on recordings around election day, Nov. 4, 2008, believing he might even be able to secure a Cabinet post if he appoints Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.
But it seems to start to dawn on him that Obama and his staff are reluctant to deal with him and he turns increasingly frustrated, directing some of his anger at Rahm Emanuel, then designated as Obama's chief of staff.
In a Nov. 10 call, he tells several people on a conference call that Obama is "all take and no give." He claims on the recording that Emanuel, now Chicago's mayor-elect, sought Blagojevich's help at one point but it's "all a one-way street," Blagojevich says, cursing again.
Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing. His defense attorneys have maintained that the recorded talk about the Senate seat was just that -- talk.