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*** UPDATED x2 - Blagojevich gets extension *** Zagel demands reporter’s notes, documents

Tuesday, Dec 13, 2011

*** UPDATE 1 *** From NBC5

Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys on Tuesday requested a 30-day extension on the date the former governor must report to prison. Judge James Zagel granted the extension during a hearing at the Dirksen Federal Building.
Blagojevich’s new date is March 15.

During the hearing Blagojevich’s attorneys also made a request for which prison he’ll be sent to. They asked for Englewood, Colo.

[ *** End Of Update 1 *** ]

* This is not cool

A federal judge ordered a Chicago Tribune reporter on Monday to turn over notes and other related documents concerning a juror who apparently concealed her criminal record in the William Cellini trial, a directive the newspaper called “unnecessary” and harmful to the independence of the reporting process. […]

During a brief hearing last week, U.S. District Judge James Zagel brought up the idea of compelling the Tribune to turn over its notes from a conversation with the juror before any of the lawyers in the case even raised the issue. The judge identified the juror in Monday’s ruling as Candy Chiles.

The defense argues that the Chicago woman compromised the verdict by concealing her criminal history and potential bias during jury selection. In an effort to bolster their position, Cellini’s lawyers sought access to notes of Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney from a brief interview with Chiles.

In his ruling issued late Monday, Zagel ordered that Sweeney “produce any and all notes, memoranda, tape recordings, documents, or other records, from Oct. 3, 2011, to present, of any conversations the journalist had with the juror” related to her previous criminal history or answers during jury selection.

I really don’t think judges ought to be nosing around in reporters’ notebooks. I asked Dick Ciccone, Cellini’s spokesman, about why they’d ask for such a thing…

It is simply to learn if the juror said anything about Cellini or the trial that did not appear in their stories.

* Tribune editor Gerould Kern’s response

“Journalists must be free to ask questions and collect information secure in the knowledge that their notes will not be seized by the government or litigants in court and used for other purposes. Unfortunately, that security now is threatened by this ruling.

We believe that these subpoenas are unnecessary and in fact do harm to the independence of the reporting process. We are disappointed by Judge Zagel’s ruling, and we now are considering our options.

We do not know why this juror’s record or suitability for service were not ascertained earlier by the court. Had that occurred, we might not face this situation now.

We argued in our court filing that there are other, more direct sources of information available to learn about the juror’s record and actions. These include the court’s jury selection records, the juror herself, her friends and family, and her fellow jurors.

Public court records also are available to everyone in this case, as they were to us when we revealed the felony convictions in our Nov. 11 story. “


*** UPDATE 2 *** Annie Sweeney tells us what happened when she talked to the juror in question

Something has come up about you, I said. I am not here to judge, but we know about your convictions. And now there are questions about whether you were eligible to serve on the jury.

She began repeating the word no and indicated she did not want to be interviewed.

I continued talking. I was not taking notes.

She said she had nothing to say and told me to leave. She then made one brief remark that was not in direct response to a question. She said something about they should have known. I am not sure those were her exact words and I did not understand what she meant. I didn’t have an opportunity to ask her to explain it.

At some point I also asked her about her jury questionnaire in which she revealed she had a criminal history in her family but failed to put in the details.

She did not answer my questions and kept asking me to leave, so that’s what I did. The brief conversation ended before I could get a meaningful statement from her and I went to my car and wrote down my recollections of her remarks. They were not verbatim and not in perfect chronological order.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 11:36 am:

    We thought the purpose of the matter was to determine how long before the end of the trial did the Tribune know about the juror’s past and why it was not reported immediately.

    It is just like asking the Tribune to tell us when they marched down to Dearborn Street to report Blagoof was willing to swap $100 million for a few nice editorials.

    It is also somewhat akin to listening to Tribune fiscal advice while they defend their crooked ESOP antics.

  2. - Way Way Down Here - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 11:41 am:

    ==It is simply to learn if the juror said anything about Cellini or the trial that did not appear in their stories.==


  3. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 11:49 am:

    =We do not know why this juror’s record or suitability for service were not ascertained earlier by the court=

    Hey, dudes, background check? Sheesh.

  4. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 11:51 am:

    Wow. Way to make a bad situation worse, Zagel.

    This totally looks like retaliation against the Tribune reporter for writing about this topic.

  5. - amalia - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:13 pm:

    thoughts….. Zagel was the head of the State Police from 1980 to 1987, a Thompson appointee, when he finally made his federal judicial appointment. Cellini’s hotel deal was in April of 1980, Evergreen Terrace in 1985, things that haunt to this day. wish Zagel had used his powers of investigation back then to dig things up instead of messing with the rights of the press now. (thank you SJR, tidbit filled timeline ) I find this timeline a handy companion when thinking of the old days of Governor Thompson and all of his cronies. The combine is the combine even if Zagel’s political appointee service was long ago.

  6. - Shore - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:15 pm:

    Every chicago media outlet told us he was going to Indiana or the dakotas and he ends up in colorado? and why the extension?

  7. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:15 pm:

    Englewood Colorado? I would have guessed they’d ask for Oxford to be closer to home for visits.

  8. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:17 pm:

    ===and he ends up in colorado? ===

    That’s just the request.

  9. - Knome Sane - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:19 pm:

    If the judge has this much concern about the juror’s record, and would go so far as to satisfy his curiosity for information about said juror by compelling a reporter to surrender his/her notebook, then he ought to declare a mistrial. Reasonable doubt about a juror’s obfuscation of their past certainly exists now. Doesn’t the defendant deserve that much?

  10. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:27 pm:

    “We do not know why this juror’s record or suitability for service were not ascertained earlier by the court…”
    Umm… yes we do know why– she lied during jury selection.

  11. - Dirty Red - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:30 pm:

    I’m going to call my friends on the bench to see if they would issue a court order for Natasha Korecki’s roledex.

  12. - Cheswick - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:42 pm:

    “Judge James Zagel brought up the idea of compelling the Tribune to turn over its notes…”

    And so the judiciary becomes an investigatory body. Wow.

  13. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:46 pm:

    If Zagel wants to know what the juror said, shouldn’t he be questioning her, not the reporter?

    Instead of picking on Ms Sweeney, why doesn’t he order every reporter the juror talked to after the trial for the same information? The Tribune didn’t come by information on the juror’s criminal record through confession, they shouldn’t be singled out for doing what should have been Zagel’s job.

  14. - downstate commissioner - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:52 pm:

    just knew that he wouldn’t go to jail that soon-he get the holidays, now he will get Easter and Memorial Day. Put the Convicted criminal in prison, for God’s sake. And why should he be allowed to choose which prison he goes to? Bet the poor black kid caught selling a couple of ounces of pot doesn’t get to choose…

  15. - Left Leaner - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:53 pm:

    Thoughts = Dangerous. Orders for records from reporters should be few and far between and only done in exceptional cases. This is not one of them. Bad precedent. Zagel should know better.

  16. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:58 pm:

    Can’t go to Oxford, doesn’t qualify due to the lengh of the sentence … has to go to something more “maximum” … no fences and bunkbeds in a dorm … he is going to have to go to a cell …

  17. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 12:58 pm:

    I’m not surprised at the extension, Blagojevich and his lawyers will do everything possible to delay his reporting to prison.

  18. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 1:08 pm:

    Sorry, Judge Zagel, you do you your job and let the reporters do theirs.

    No notes for you.

    I hate defending the Trib.

  19. - bored now - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 1:23 pm:

    so blago will go to jail 5 days before the primary, and be a featured news story just as voters are deciding between jackson and halvorson???

  20. - soccermom - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 1:36 pm:

    Bored now — excellent point. Sheesh.

  21. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 1:41 pm:

    Uh, dc, Memorial Day is in May, not March.

  22. - BelleAire - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 2:00 pm:

    Is Blago wearing a bracelet?

  23. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 2:03 pm:

    - BelleAire - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 2:00 pm:

    “Is Blago wearing a bracelet?”

    Soon to be bracelets?

  24. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 2:15 pm:

    Denver, eh?

    I guess he wanted to be close to his family.

  25. - Bill F - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 2:18 pm:

    Englewood was named one of Forbes’ best places to go to prison a few years ago. Seriously.

  26. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 2:25 pm:

    - Bill F - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 2:18 pm:

    “Englewood was named one of Forbes’ best places to go to prison a few years ago. Seriously.”

    Sounds nicer than Detroit…

  27. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 2:35 pm:

    He’d be in a better position to argue for time served if he served some time before the appeal.

    Just sayin’.

  28. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 3:17 pm:

    From Trib:

    U.S. District Judge James Zagel also agreed to extend Blagojevich’s surrender date to March 15 unless the former governor is able to sell his Ravenswood Manor residence before then.

    Is that because he has to sign the papers?

  29. - shore - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 3:57 pm:

    Bored Now-good point. Good luck to candidates trying to compete with that news story.

  30. - Anon III - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 4:00 pm:

    Oswego “… no fences and bunkbeds in a dorm … ”

    That describes a couple of summer camps in Wisconsin that I went to when I was a kid.

  31. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 5:33 pm:

    Anon III….

    Oxford is definitely more Summer Camp … but Oxford is usually refered to as “College” … as in … “Johnny is in ‘College’ at Oxford for the next 15 months …”

  32. - Dave - Tuesday, Dec 13, 11 @ 8:42 pm:

    this is what happens when we as a society let former cops or prosecutors end up as judges. they have an incredible bias with their experience.

    I sincerely hope the Chicago Tribune fights this order and ALL media dig deep into everything Zagel has ever done, thought, spoken and “noted” so that his “background” is clear for everyone to see.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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