5 things you might have forgotten about Rod Blagojevich and his trial

  • A 2009 episode of "The Celebrity Apprentice" featured, in the back row from left, Curtis Stone, Michael Johnson and Rod Blagojevich, and in the front row, Bill Goldberg, Darryl Strawberry, Sinbad and Bret Michaels.

    A 2009 episode of "The Celebrity Apprentice" featured, in the back row from left, Curtis Stone, Michael Johnson and Rod Blagojevich, and in the front row, Bill Goldberg, Darryl Strawberry, Sinbad and Bret Michaels. Ali Goldstein/NBC

 
 
Updated 2/19/2020 8:41 AM

There were many tentacles to the investigation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, including suburban connections and a relationship with President Donald Trump. Here are five things you might have forgotten.

1. 'I have great respect for you'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It was a flubbed Harry Potter reference that got former Blagojevich fired by Trump on "The Celebrity Apprentice" in 2010, on the eve of Blagojevich's trial.

"It's Slithering and it's Hufflepuff and it's Ravencloth ..." Blagojevich tried to explain after Trump pointed his finger at the former governor and challenged his Harry Potter facts.

The exchange continued after Trump asked who researched Blagojevich's team's project to create a Harry Potter display for Universal Studios in Florida.

"Gov, I have great respect for you," Trump said. "I have great respect for your tenacity, for the fact that you just don't give up. But, Rod, you're fired."

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2. Whistleblower at Naperville hospital

Blagojevich's wheeling and dealing didn't just take place at the governor's offices or at his home in Chicago.

A key figure in the case against him was Edward Hospital CEO Pamela Davis, who went to the FBI with a story of Illinois political cronies extorting the Naperville hospital for money in exchange for state approval to build a hospital in Plainfield.

Davis wore a wire and helped set in motion a federal wiretap of Illinois power broker Stuart Levine, resulting in a treasure trove of information that ultimately led to Blagojevich. It was one of a number of suburban connections to the corruption case again Blagojevich.

3. Deal making in Schaumburg

The India House restaurant in Schaumburg, now closed, was the setting for a fundraising lunch for Blagojevich on Halloween 2008. His brother, Robert Blagojevich, later testified Raghuveer Nayak of Oak Brook offered to raise up to $6 million for the governor if he appointed Jesse Jackson Jr. to the U.S. Senate seat about to be vacated by Barack Obama. Nayak and Jackson weren't charged, but Nayak later was sentenced on unrelated federal health care fraud charges and Jackson later resigned from his Chicago congressional seat amid a federal ethics investigation.

4. A Blagojevich 'quid pro quo'

Suburban horse racing tracks figured into several of the 17 counts on which Blagojevich was found guilty -- wire fraud, extortion, conspiracy and conspiracy to solicit a bribe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Prosecutors said Blagojevich threatened in 2008 not to sign racetrack legislation into law to help struggling Maywood and Balmoral Park until their owner, John Johnston of Hinsdale, coughed up a $100,000 campaign contribution. That contribution was never made, Blagojevich was arrested, and subsequently he signed the racetrack legislation.

Casinos sued the track owners and won damages, leading the racetracks to file for bankruptcy. An appellate judge upheld the ruling in favor of the casinos, saying there was enough evidence "to allow a rational jury to find a quid pro quo agreement" between Johnston and Blagojevich.

5. Trump funds Blagojevich

Trump, a Republican, gave Democrat Blagojevich $7,000 in campaign funding -- $5,000 in 2002 and $2,000 in 2007.

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