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Judge punches back hard

Thursday, Apr 22, 2010

* Our quote of the day goes to boxing trainer Pat LaCassa, even though it’s an old quote from bygone days. LaCassa coached Rod Blagojevich during his short-lived Golden Gloves career

“[Blagojevich] wasn’t a very good boxer, but he liked to fight.” LaCassa said Blago lost his second and final Golden Gloves fight because he kept his gloves up to defend his face.

In other words, he loved to fight, but was afraid to take a punch to his pretty face. Some things never change.

* Blagojevich took a hard right to the chin yesterday

What began with a bombastic news conference Tuesday — at which Rod Blagojevich summoned U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to show up in court and explain why his office opposed playing all the secret FBI recordings at trial — ended with a federal judge handing down a dose of reality, using boxing analogies.

“I will not allow the legal equivalent of a head butt,” said U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who made it crystal clear that he — and only he — will decide which secret FBI wiretaps will be played at Blagojevich’s trial.

“I will not have the time of these jurors needlessly consumed,” Zagel said of playing all 500 hours of recordings.

Zagel invited the defense to privately submit to him the recordings they would like to play at the June 3 trial so he can rule on what the jury can hear.

He also took a nasty jab to the nose

Blagojevich can’t insist on playing just any tape, and Fitzgerald doesn’t get to decide either, the judge said. It’s like boxing — there are rules, he noted. The rules say you can’t shove, bite, kick or head-butt your opponent.

“Those rules are enforced by the referee, not by the boxers. I am that referee, no one else,” Zagel told lawyers in the case and Blagojevich, who stood directly in front of the bench, nodding slightly at times. “I will not permit the legal equivalent of head butts.” […]

The judge said the defense can generally air undercover tapes of its choosing at trial in two ways: to counter evidence introduced by the prosecution, and if Blagojevich testifies as he has pledged to do.

While the former governor is on the witness stand, tapes could be played that corroborate his defense. That’s allowed because Blagojevich could then be cross-examined, Zagel said. But the tapes must be relevant.

And the court decides what’s relevant. “Not the defendant, his lawyers, nor the prosecutors,” the judge said.

Kass’ observation was almost brilliant

Zagel: “Stop with the press conferences and talk of fighting people, before I get medieval on your behind.”

Rod: “How’s that, my friend?”

Zagel: “You ain’t my friend, palooka.”

Rod: “What did you say?”

Zagel: “You heard me just fine, punchy.”

* The brother wasn’t spared, either…

Earlier, Zagel turned down a request from Blagojevich’s brother, businessman Robert Blagojevich, to be tried separately.

Robert Blagojevich’s lawyer, Michael E. Ettinger, had argued that the evidence against the former governor could “spill over” and bias jurors against his client.

* Blagojevich’s bombastic attorney defended his punch-drunk client

Sam Adam, Senior is one of Blagojevich’s attorneys. He says he didn’t discourage his client from making that challenge.

ADAM: It may have been too personal. I don’t know. I can’t say. I think it was not. I think it was well deserved.

Here are a few of Blagojevich’s quotes from earlier this week…

- “In their proffer of lies, they are now hitting below the belt and attacking my wife.”
- “They are cowards and they are liars.”
- “The government is sneaking into court tomorrow to file a motion to keep all the tapes from being heard.”
- “There’s a smoking gun on those tapes.”
- “They’re covering up that big lie that foreseeably led to a chain of events that stole a governor from the people of Illinois and undid the will of the people.”
- “I’m here today to issue a challenge… I challenge Mr. Fitzgerald. Why don’t you show up in court tomorrow and explain to everybody, explain to the whole world why you don’t want all those tapes that you made played in court? I’ll be in court tomorrow. I hope you’re man enough to be there too.

Not insulting, eh? Sheesh.

* Meanwhile, some reporters who covered yesterday’s events suspected that a small crowd of Blagojevich well-wishers may actually have been Astroturf

Press in attendance openly mused whether the scene was staged.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, would surprise me about this guy.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 9:50 am:

    Zagel sure is taking the fun out of Rod and Sam’s excellent adventure.

    The freak show ends in his courtroom.

  2. - the Patriot - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 9:58 am:

    He almost had me for a minute. The Federal Judge is covering and won’t let us hear the smoking gun tape that will prove Rod’s case. Yea, in the days of youtube and twitter where every piece of information is available at the push of a button a Federal Judge is going to cover up tapes hoping they never get leaked down the road. You almost had me Rod.

    I would be interested in a QOTD and let bloggers answer how far you go for your brother. If Rob can walk for 2-5 should he sell out his brother. Does he really believe they can get off? Can he get a deal at this point?

  3. - PFK - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 10:06 am:

    I’m sure Zagel will remain impartial, but Blagojevich isn’t making it easy on him

  4. - Living in Oklahoma - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 10:18 am:

    Where is Bill on this one? That’s who Rod should have hired as his defense attorney.

  5. - Old Milwaukee - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 10:24 am:

    I agree with the press. It’s nob absurd to think those people showing support for Blagojevich were paid to be there by the former Governor.

  6. - Levois - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:00 am:

    I wish Judge Zagel lots of luck at this point. I don’t think Blago can help himself.

  7. - Squideshi - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    Sounds like the judge is saying that they can basically choose whichever tape(s) they want to play, which they feel are relevant, just not ALL of them. That sounds reasonable. Is Rod really making the argument that we need to hear ALL 500 hours in order to determine his innocence or guilt?

  8. - dupage dan - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    I like the cut of Judge Zagel’s jib. Doesn’t sound like Ito to me. Should prove difficult for Adams and RB to cause confusion during the trial. Poor Rob, should be time to cut his loses. Blab, Rob, blab!

  9. - jaded voter - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:05 am:

    Rod has surely succeeded in tainting a likely jury pool at this point. He needs only one nimROD to hold out for “the people’s champion” and he has his hung jury. Ugly but true. ROD will walk.

  10. - zatoichi - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:07 am:

    I love the ‘I’ll be in court tomorrow. I hope you’re man enough to be there too.’ Sounds like a cheap threat from an old Perry Mason show. In real life what lead attorney will slink away from appearing in court for a case this size? It’s where he makes a living. Dumb.

  11. - And I Approved This Message - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:13 am:

    Zatoichi–Fitzgerald is not on the prosecution team for this trial so there was no reason for him to appear in court. Except maybe to punch Rod out.

  12. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:19 am:

    Thanks for thinking of me but my plate is kinda full right now so Rod will have to settle for Sammie and Shellie. Speaking of Shellie, I wonder how he feels about Rod challenging the USA to a duel or whatever he did the other day. I know Sam doesn’t care but it can’t be good for Shellie. OH, well, I guess in that business, any media is good media. Still, it can’t be good for business. If Rod deosn’t shut up, Fitzie might decide to try this one personally.

  13. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:29 am:

    I hope you’re right but a hung jury is not “walking”. At this point Fitzie is sooooo honked off he would probably keep trying Rod until he gets bounced by the President or gets some kind of verdict. If there ever was any slight chance of Rod copping and getting any kind of deal, that time has now past.
    You would think that during Rod’s time at 26th and cal, shining shoes and trying to pick up DUI cases and stuff that he would have picked up at least an inkiling of how these things work, but noooooooooo! Even his idol Eddie was smart enough to lay low and keep his mouth shut while he was being investigated and indicted. Not Rod, though!

  14. - Say WHAT? - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 11:41 am:

    Can too much testicular virility drive someone mad?

  15. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 12:00 pm:

    Oh man! Where do I start on this issue?

    I’ve had an Interesting experience fielding questions from some folks who know I am an attorney and heavily involved in politics in my little neck of the woods in the last day ever since “that” Blagojevich press conference. This took place at a meeting I went to last night.

    “Why wouldn’t the judge allow ALL the tapes to be played? What is the government hiding? How can they pick and choose? Maybe he IS being railroaded?”

    Even when I explained what the standard definition of “relevant” evidence is and the fact that those tapes have hours and hours of nothing conversations intermixed with “the bad stuff”, the response was still “they should play them all anyway.” “How can it hurt?”

    Brilliant job of jury pool influencing by the “crazy” ex-Governor. Legal procedure and evidence rules were not things these folks wanted to discuss. “Forget all that technical legal mumbo-jumbo stuff. They should just play all the tapes.”

    Maybe the trial WILL go on all the way to election day?

  16. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 12:05 pm:

    Thanks for the anecdotes. Good flacks are worth twice their weight in gold. Rod was on WVON last night and every caller was positive and encouraging. Rod was eating it up and Cliff Kelley, another victim of a “Fed conspiracy”, was dishing it up with a spoon.
    This is more fun than watching Patti eat a spider.

  17. - Deluxe - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 12:09 pm:

    No matter what Judge Zagel says now or during the trial doesn’t matter. Blagojevich will walk and being laughing all the way to the bank.

  18. - Pingu - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 12:11 pm:

    The problem with the “play all the tapes” strategy is that Zagel will never allow that argument to cross the lips of Rod’s counsel in the presence of the jury. There will be pretrial motions that will undoubtedly bar them from arguing or even alluding to that position. The actual jurors will never hear a word about it, period. Once he’s convicted, that’ll be an issue on appeal, and a loser of an argument at that. Zagel runs a tight, tight ship.

  19. - gg - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    @ Pingu,

    You are most likely correct …

    However, in the court of public opinion this is not good.

    The AG has the tapes … the defendant says play the tapes.

    Why won’t the judge let the defendant play the tapes outside of the courtroom? Is it because the tapes will poison the water? What water?

    Regardless of the law if those tapes were of Scott Lee Cohen, they would be public by now.

    Being true to courtroom rules does not stop the judge from looking like he is in on the set up.

    There are laws and there is reality.

    Why is such a large portion of the jail population young black males?

    That’s right … it’s the laws.

    Question: Who do the laws benefit?

    Answer: The rich and powerful not the poor or the public.

    Many find this situation troubling.

  20. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 12:32 pm:

    The Judge has no other choices here. If he allowed the Cirque Du Blagojevich to call the shots, he would be replaced.

    Rod Blagojevich didn’t live in a black and white world, but like many in the field of government, sales, marketing and politics, lives in a gray world where how you speak, look, comb your hair, wear your tie, smile, how much money you have, calls the shots. He, and most guys in his line of work, can’t factually prove anything - and even if they tried - facts are not considered a higher priority than spin and lies.

    Well, Mr. Blagojevich, the Master Of His Own Domain has met the real world of black and white. The Judge and jury are interested in provable facts. Like Dragnet’s Sgt. Friday, The Impeached One will be told to repeat, “just the facts”, and anything he wishes to spin isn’t going to be accepted. For any ordinary individual, who has found success in the gray world, becoming a defendant in a black and white world is a sobering experience.

    But for Mr. Rod Blagojevich, who has obviously rewired his brain so that he cannot fathom black and white experiences, the reality of courtrooms, juries and legalities won’t dent his worldview. After all, in Rod Blagojevich’s reality, he wrote laws, so consequentially, he would interpret any legal decision as a political one which he could put into play and spin. So, even if he is convicted, expect Rod Blagojevich to present his case as one where he just couldn’t get a fair hearing. That is, a gray world version of a trial, not the black and white world version he is now experiencing.

    He just won’t get it.

    And we should have come to realize after witnessing similar trials regarding our elected officials that to politicians, everything is political, and they are the professionals. As long as the general public is gullible enough to let these people spin their worldview, the longer these crooks will play their games in public.

  21. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 12:50 pm:

    …ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, I have one final thing I want you to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense! . . . .

  22. - Pingu - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 12:55 pm:

    I understand what you are saying, but Rod’s fate is most certainly going to be settled in Zagel’s courtroom, not the court of public opinion. Whatever superficial appeal this tactic may have, it is short-sighted in that it will have zero impact in the legal proceedings. I don’t think Rod really wants to embrace legal martyrdom, yet this seems to be the path he is meandering down.

  23. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 2:41 pm:


    This is not like other cases. Most defendants don’t go on for 2 years tearing at the gov’t case and promoting conspiracy theories and just confusing people w/ absolute nonsense. Never had a clown of Rod’s proportions.

    Doesn’t matter what the law and procedures say, average people like those who elected Scott Lee Cohen make up the jury pool. It is they who are easily confused and mislead. It is they who will DECIDE the case. Count on at least 2 nimRODS withholding a guilty verdict no matter what is presented in court.

    Go back and read LGA@12pm and Bil@12.05pm. This is where the heads of many jurors will be.

    Remember one goofy juror nearly derailed the months long case against old sour puss George Ryan. Ryan had no common touch. Goofy Blago works a crowd like no ones business. That is why he got elected in the first place. The hairball imp LOVES to campaign.

    OH, that and the fact Daley & Madigan decided to install Mel’s son-in-law. Always remember who put him in office–Daley, Madigan & dumb voters.

  24. - jaded voter - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 2:42 pm:

    that’s me @ 2.41pm

  25. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 2:44 pm:

    ===Daley & Madigan decided to install Mel’s son-in-law===

    Huh. I must’ve missed that meeting.

  26. - irish - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 2:56 pm:

    Don’t you think there is also a bit of curiousity, ambulance chasing style, from those who want to hear all the tapes. They think there might be a bit of gossip they can glean from hearing ALL the tapes. And what if there was something juicy on a tape they didn’t decide to play. What a loss to their simple and uneventful lives. They could have had that one golden nugget to talk endlessly about at the local coffee shop. Alas poor York.

  27. - jaded voter - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 3:03 pm:

    You’re kidding Rich, right.

    You think there was a chance in hell that Blago gets into office without Daley and Madigan supporting him whether covertly or openly.

    Daley didn’t want Paul Vallas and so worked to undermine him. Paul Vallas may not have played by the old power structures rules–can’t have that, can we.

    Roland Burris was the ace in the hole. He was put up to siphon off black votes which would have largely gone to Vallas.

    Daley people got Blago David Wilheim to run his campaign. He previously worked for Clinton and the National Dem party. David Wilheim made the downstate connections that allowed him to eek out a victory.

    And even with the help Blago barely won. But it is all or nothing. Functionally, winning by one is like winning by a ton.

    Now Daley and Madigan never counted on Blago being such a loose canon. And neither did Mel.

  28. - Pingu - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 3:10 pm:

    You are right that he certainly is a unique defendant. But I respectfully think that you overestimate the weight one should give to these theatrics months before the jury is empaneled. Once a jury is picked, Zagel will gag both sides. There will be no constant “play the tapes!” message. Several months in Zagel’s courtroom will dull even the most sympathetic or distrusting juror. One juror may have come close to derailing the GRyan trial, but ultimately did not. Now, if Rod takes the stand, that is a wildcard, but I seriously doubt that his counsel will let him do that. If he does, the Feds will destroy him and Zagel will keep him in check. I just don’t see a lot of hope for Rod . . .

  29. - jaded voter - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 3:21 pm:


    I have no doubt about your characterization of how the trial will be handled once it gets started. But Blago has already done his damage to the process.

    The jury pool is being corrupted now for the trial to come. We dodged a hung jury with G Ryan–thank God. With all Rods theatrics over the last 2 years I’m sure he will have ensnared 1 or 2 jurors. I see hung jury. Terrible but true.

  30. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 3:32 pm:

    ===David Wilheim made the downstate connections ===

    That’s pretty goofy. You ever hear of Jay Hoffman?

  31. - jaded voter - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 3:54 pm:


    Go read the Tribune magazine piece on David Wilheim. Done sometime after Blago’s election. Wilheim is from the Appalachia region of southern Ohio — lots of left behind towns not faring to well, alot like downstate IL. Wilheim started an investment fund to try and assist such regions. He really cares about those regions. Blago could give a damn about anything but himself. Wilheim was instrumental in making downstate connections. No doubt, Wilheim meant what he said to the people. It got Blago over the top even tho he, Blago, doesn’t have a sincere bone in his body.

    Did not hear of Jay Hoffman. What the hell does that prove? Every campaign has many people working, staffing and aiding its goals.

    Also, you think Daley & Madigan are going to invite you to some meeting or forum to make public their real plans and goals? Now who’s goofy. You’ve been reading your High School civics textbook too long.

  32. - QC - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 4:38 pm:

    I thought the endorsement and work done by Johnny G - may he rest in peace - the Chairman of the downstate chairman’s association - was the greatest determining factor in Blago’s excellent performance downstate in that first primary.

  33. - QC - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 4:42 pm:

    Jay Hoffman?

    Rich’s impression of the man is different than mine - in my eye’s he’s just a failed Congressional candidate who the madigoons found preferable to Glenn Bradford way back when . . .

  34. - What About Hoffman? - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 8:00 pm:

    Speaking of Jay Hoffman, it will be interesting to see if Blago calls on him to testify in his defense as they are such good buddies. Hoffman has been laying real low on issues since Blago’s impeachment. Hoffman has got to go at the ballot box this November.

  35. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Apr 22, 10 @ 9:10 pm:

    Not a criminal attorney, but wondering if Blago must get permission from the judge first before he can play any tapes in his defense do the Feds have to do likewise? If not, I could see them playing some barely relevant tapes that have RRB cussing, using the N-word or C-word to get blacks and women on the jury against him right off the bat.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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