Mentioned, but not charged: Did Patti Blagojevich dodge bullet?

  • Patti Blagojevich

    Patti Blagojevich Associated Press

By Rob Olmstead
Daily Herald Staff
Published4/4/2009 12:01 AM

She appears time and time again in Thursday's indictment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, portrayed as a party to his alleged scheme to trade government business for himself and his family.

Specifically, she's accused of receiving more than $50,000 in little-to-no-work real estate deals. The indictment also says when two banks wouldn't hire her, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich gave a blustery order that state business to those banks dry up - an order that was apparently ignored.


Still, many are asking, in light of all her allegedly sought and sometimes-received benefits, why isn't Patti Blagojevich, the wife of Rod Blagojevich, charged with a crime?

While no one but the U.S. attorney's office knows for sure, there are three competing theories. The first, of course, is that she's innocent - the stance taken by her attorney Raymond Pijon in media reports Friday. Just receiving money from a scheme doesn't mean you were part of it, he noted in the Chicago Tribune.

The second is that she might not be pure as the driven snow, but the feds haven't got the goods on her.

"One thing you have to keep in mind is there's a huge gulf between 'they (prosecutors) don't think she did anything wrong' and 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt,'" said Ron Safer, a former federal prosecutor now in white-collar defense work with Schiff Hardin LLP.

The third theory is that feds have the goods, but don't want them. In other words, prosecuting her would be more trouble than it's worth, and might even engender sympathy from a jury if it does the math and figures out that, if both Mom and Dad go to prison, the children would be left parentless for years.

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By not charging Patti Blagojevich, "all of those sort of needless sideshow arguments are eliminated," said a source with firsthand information of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Anybody who knows the evidence in this case knows they have evidence on Patti."

Trying to convict Patti Blagojevich in a case already filled with six defendants and hundreds of potential witnesses could be counterproductive, especially when it's the big fish the government are after, the source said. Still, the source noted, trotting it out in an indictment reminds both her and Rod Blagojevich "that if they wanted to, they could indict and convict her."

Safer, along with DePaul University law professor Len Cavise don't buy it.

"I think if they thought she had committed a crime, they would indict her," said Safer.

"I don't buy the motivation that it looks bad in front of the jury," said Cavise. "That doesn't sound like (U.S. Attorney Patrick) Fitzgerald at all. I think it's more of an evidentiary matter."

U.S. Attorney spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment on Patti Blagojevich's status.

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