Judge: Blago lawyers should "apologize" to suburban juror
A federal judge denied a bid Monday for a new trial for Rod Blagojevich and in the process gave the former governor's legal team a tongue-lashing for suggesting a suburban juror's actions violated court rules.
Judge James Zagel suggested lawyers Aaron Goldstein, Sheldon Sorosky and Lauren Kaesberg write a "letter of apology" to jury forewoman Connie Wilson of Naperville.
"How you could have concluded," Zagel said, "that the juror was lawfully restricted (from sharing information about her jury questionnaire) is just beyond my imagination."
He told Blagojevich's lawyers that he considered the motion "harebrained" -- a phrase Sorosky asked the judge to repeat. "Yes, harebrained," the judge repeated, noting the motion was "prepared without adequate thought."
The emergency motion was filed Friday, following news reports in the Daily Herald and other media of Wilson speaking to students at Metea Valley High School in Aurora.
In the motion, attorneys claim Wilson engaged in misconduct for showing what they believed were copies of her juror questionnaire to students. Questionnaires, the motion states, are property of the court, and must remain "confidential and under seal."
If Wilson did, in fact, have a copy of her questionnaire, Blagojevich's lawyers said she has violated a rule of court "so severe" that "her violations must result in a new trial."
Yet, in writing the motion, Zagel said, the defense team drew "entirely inappropriate analogies" because Wilson's conduct came at a time when she was already excused from jury duty.
Blagojevich, convicted on corruption charges that include trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, was sentenced to 14 years in prison Dec. 7.
Following the hearing, Goldstein said the motion was filed in "100 percent good faith" and not done to "abridge (Wilson's) right to speak."
There was, he said, "enough information based on the article to determine whether there should be a hearing."
Attorneys said they still plan to continue with an appeal of Zagel's ruling.
Neither Blagojevich nor Wilson attended Monday's hearing.
In a Monday afternoon interview, the former teacher -- who explained she brought blank jury forms as a way to illustrate her talk at Metea Valley -- said she does not expect an apology as Zagel suggested.
"It they do it would be nice, but it's not something that I feel is necessary," she said.