Blagojevich trial defense to call witnesses next week

Reuters News
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Posted: May 20, 2011 10:35 AM
Blagojevich trial defense to call witnesses next week

By Janan Hanna

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Lawyers defending former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich said they will call witnesses to testify next week at his second corruption trial, a strategy reversal from his first trial when no defense witnesses took the stand.

Defense lawyers made the comments in court after the prosecution completed presenting its case accusing Blagojevich of trying to leverage appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, and other official actions, for personal and political gain.

At his first trial last year, which ended with the jury deadlocked on all but one charge, the defense called no witnesses. This time, lawyers said they expected to take about three days to present the case defending Blagojevich, who was arrested in 2008 and impeached soon after.

They did not say who would testify, or if Blagojevich himself might take the stand. "You'll have to wait and see," defense attorney Lauren Kaeseberg told reporters, as she left the courthouse Thursday.

Before resting its case, a prosecution witness testified on Thursday that Blagojevich held up a $2 million grant for a Chicago school in 2006 because he wanted the brother of then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel to hold a fundraiser for him.

Bradley Tusk, who worked in Blagojevich's administration as deputy governor at that time, testified that Blagojevich told him in a phone call in the summer or fall of 2006 that he was holding back the funds for the Chicago Academy, which was located in Emanuel's district. Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago.

Emanuel helped secure the grant and had asked Tusk when the funds would be coming. When Tusk asked, Blagojevich told him: "The grant would not be released unless the Congressman's brother held a fundraiser for him," Tusk testified.

Tusk also testified that he had two phone conversations with another deputy governor in the Blagojevich administration, Robert Greenlee, in December of 2008.

In one of those conversations, Greenlee told Tusk that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was "strongly being considered for the Senate seat" in return for "consideration," Tusk said.

Consideration meant campaign contributions, Tusk testified.

(Editing by Greg McCune)