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Another day, another mistrial motion

Monday, Jun 28, 2010

* Here we go again

The fourth full week of Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial has gotten under way with the former governor’s attorneys asking the judge to declare a mistrial.

Former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris was on the witness stand Monday as the trial resumed.

The defense attorneys filed their request for a mistrial citing last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision placing limits on the use of the federal honest services fraud statute.

Expect a speedy denial.

* And brother Rob wants access to the money

Attorneys kicked off Monday morning with discussion of a motion by Robert Blagojevich.

Robert filed a motion recently asking to reserve $350,000 of the campaign fund that’s paying for the ex-governor’s legal fees.

Prosecutor Reid Schar said he thought the request was “at odds” with Judge James Zagel’s previous restraining order, which the judge ordered over the governor’s $2.3 million campaign fund after Rod Blagojevich was indicted.

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column is about why Lon Monk went bad

To many Illinois politics insiders, one of the more surprising aspects of this Rod Blagojevich saga is not that the former governor was arrested. Most of them knew for years that he was heading for big trouble.

The late Chris Kelly’s alleged misdeeds as one of Blagojevich’s top fundraisers didn’t stir all that much surprise. He was a high-pressure fundraiser who wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. The conviction of wheeler, dealer Antoin “Tony” Rezko also wasn’t that far from expectations. The man was obviously up to his eyeballs in corruption.

But the name of the fourth person who prosecutors say was in on the alleged schemes to skim as much money as possible during the Blagojevich era has taken quite a few insiders aback.

Alonzo “Lon” Monk pled guilty last year to a host of crimes. He admitted that he helped shake down a racetrack official for a $100,000 contribution in exchange for a bill signing (the money was never paid). He said he met with Blagojevich, Rezko and Kelly as far back as 2002 to discuss illegally divvying up the spoils of public office, and admittemed that he accepted several $10,000 “gifts” from Rezko.

Monk comes from a well-off family, which most of his former friends and associates say they believed should have insulated him from money temptations. He didn’t need the cash, so why take it? They don’t have many answers to that question.

Monk was also a peacemaker while he worked as Blagojevich’s chief of staff. He was one of the few people who could calm the governor down and convince him to see reality, say former insiders.

The bottom line is that quite a few of the people around Blagojevich thought Monk was doing his best to keep the governor on the straight and narrow. And many are shocked that he has now admitted to being so deep into Blagojevich’s corrupt ways.

I had several conversations with Monk over the years, including a few long, informal ones. Monk abandoned the high life in California as a sports agent to come to Illinois and work for his former law school roommate. He did it out of a sense of duty to an old friend and for a new adventure in life. He seemed to work hard and keep a low profile, and he never made phony excuses for Blagojevich, like so many others on his staff.

Many of Monk’s former friends and colleagues that I’ve spoken with over the past several weeks say they just don’t believe the stories Monk told Blagojevich’s jury about how he was in on it from the get-go. They claim that Monk must’ve been severely pressured by the government into telling lies, or at least embellishments.

Monk’s plea deal knocked two years off a possible four-year prison term. He certainly had a motive to cooperate as fully as possible and tell a version of the truth approved by prosecutors.

Other former administration insiders paint a different scenario. In their way of thinking, Monk may have thought that he would go along with the schemes in order to help steer his friend Blagojevich away from the worst abuses. In fact, his testimony indicated that he did do that on more than one occasion. Monk testified that he didn’t tell Blagojevich the whole truth when the governor was pressuring him to strong-arm that racetrack owner, for instance. He said he was applying maximum effort, but in reality did not.

There is, however, a third possibility which one very high-level former Blagojevich insider offered up, and which I happen to believe is probably the case. Monk may have had good intentions when he arrived in Illinois, but Blagojevich constantly played off his inner circle members against each other and Monk’s insecurity about his position in that circle may have led him to finally say he was going to get his own piece of the action.

Monk has, after all, admitted to taking cash payments from Rezko, so he may have just been a very good crook - able to deceive just about anybody with his good looks and soft-spoken charms. In fact, that insider says Monk’s charm and good looks are “how he got away with it for so long.”

“He’s rotten to the core,” the former insider said about Monk. “He makes (Chris) Kelly look like Bambi.” Monk may very well have been the perfect front man for the loud and crass Blagojevich.

* Related…

* Fraud ruling? Experts say minimal impact on Blago

* Marin: Code of silence alive and well here; Floor by floor, case by case, it’s fair to ask why the feds — rather than state or local leaders — have had to man the front lines of the fight against corruption or police misconduct or corporate greed.

* Harris to Face Blagojevich’s Lawyers Monday

* Blagojevich defense gets to question key witness

* Statehouse Insider: Blagojevich might have to get over distaste for uniforms

* Erickson: Funny how being under oath changes the tune: In a news release announcing his departure, here’s what Tusk said: “The great thing about Governor Blagojevich is that he has the vision and courage to try to do big things, and time after time, he turns that vision into programs that have helped millions of people. It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of that team and part of that effort.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 10:47 am:

    Monk might have been smoother, but he was just another cheap hustler. It’s always astounding to me what crooks will risk for money they don’t need.

  2. - the Patriot - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 10:55 am:

    Are we ever going to have someone get deeper into what was really going on? How can all thse guys who are tied to people still in office be going down and no one touch Obama, Emanual, Daley, Madigan. They were all in the same circles. Madigan was the face of Blago’s campaign twice and raised money on his behalf. He either knew all of this was going on or he is an idiot, and Mike Madigan ain’t no idiot. When you look at all these guys going down and how far reaching the corruption was with no mention of the rest of these guys, it looks more and more like Blago really is just a fall guy.

    That is why Blago will go, but nothing will change in Illinois. The Media isn’t really covering the ties these guys who are prison bound have to other office holders? Why not?

  3. - Scooby - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 10:58 am:

    All of these three theories are invalid.

    - “Monk must’ve been severely pressured by the government into telling lies, or at least embellishments.” After he got his plea deal he went and told the government about stuff that wasn’t even charged. As a former attorney he took his opportunity to get everything on the record he could so he couldn’t be charged further. This is him being smart about getting out from any possible additional charges moreso than lying or embellishing. When he tells them about the $10k/mo that he was getting from Rezko under the table, or the whole 1,2,3,4 thing, these accusations weren’t part of the orignial charges so if the government was going to pressure him into making false or embellished statements they would have pressured him into saying things about the stuff they charged.

    - “Monk may have thought that he would go along with the schemes in order to help steer his friend Blagojevich away from the worst abuses.” I don’t buy this one either because he said that all of this got started when he had a conversation with Chris Kelly in the parking lot during the campaign and they decided to try to make money off their position. Plus the only way it works is if the Chief of Staff is in a position to make the final decision on all personnel and contracts. Plus he’s admitted in open court that he was a willing participant.

    - “Blagojevich constantly played off his inner circle members against each other and Monk’s insecurity about his position in that circle may have led him to finally say he was going to get his own piece of the action.” This is the least believable theory. There was a lot of talk for a long time about whether he could ever even leave the day to day running of the administration because Blagojevich trusted and/or would talk to so few people. There was no obvious successor. I don’t think there was ever a day that he felt his position tenuous, if anything for a long time he felt trapped, so this doesn’t make sense.

  4. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 10:59 am:

    Scooby, I think some of your info is just wrong.

  5. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    ===it looks more and more like Blago really is just a fall guy. ===

    LOL. Yeah. Right. You are seeing only what you want to see.

  6. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 11:07 am:

    Rich, I always told you I liked Lon Monk. I had nteractions with him during and after the transition and he always seemed straightforward and good to work with, always seemed to be trying to do a good job.

  7. - Responsa - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 11:34 am:

    Power corrupts—so often. With many people, unexpectedly and surprisingly, it just seems to.

  8. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 11:47 am:


    If you believe that Rod is the fall guy, I’ve got a few bridges to sell you. Listening to (or reading) those tapes clearly reveals that Rod was no innocent dupe. He was a petulant little brat whose ambitious reach was far beyond his slimy grasp. President Rod? Oy vey.

  9. - Windy City Mama - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 11:49 am:

    Lon is a good guy. I said it before. Rod,Tony and Chris are like a horrible disease infecting everyone around them.
    Rod hit a low blow when he brought up Lon’s dad. Knowing how close Lon has always been to his family.
    But of course Rod has no shame.
    Another person Rod has infected is his brother Rob. Good guy who doesn’t deserve what Rod has put him through.
    So many lives destroyed by a horrible,petty little man

  10. - cassandra - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 11:56 am:

    It doesn’t seem that surprising that Blago’s closest advisors turned out to be, well, ethically challenged. Birds of a feather and so forth. It’s a reminder, though, that when you hire a flawed politician for high office–in Blago’s case, because he was cute, all the liberals loved him, and the Chicago Machine created and maintained him—you can’t expect that somehow he’ll be improved upon by his executive staff. He won’t, and, in this case, he wasn’t. We Illinois voters have so much to learn about how to pick our pols.

  11. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 12:11 pm:

    We Illinois voters have so much to learn about how to pick our pols.

    They did. In 2002, Illinoisans said, “not another damn Republican!” And this year Illinoisans are saying, “not another damn Democrat!”

    When they did this in 2002, the Democrats gave us Blagojevich, who was worse than Ryan. What the GOP has to do this year is make sure Brady isn’t worse than Blagojevich. If he isn’t, well, a lot of folks around here are going to be satisfied with that.

    Now - what happened to Monk?
    It isn’t easy to go into government with the power our administrations have. We’re talking billions of dollars and an incredible amount of personal power. The bigger government becomes, the bigger these crimes are going to be.

    When you empower a bunch of guys to spend billions, what’s a few million? When you empower a bunch of guys to decide the fate of 12 million people, why not cut a deal for yourself?

    We’re talking human nature, which effectively counters every pro-government idea that we can delegate a government to make decisions for us.

    Monk is human enough to find himself falling for one of the oldest sins in the book. That is why governments should be checked in growth, why we need constitutions, why we need courts, why we need legislatures independant, and why liberal and social governments always flop.

  12. - Catchup - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 12:31 pm:

    –Windy City Mama–

    No one–not Rod, not Tony, not Chris, not Rezmar–twisted Lon Monk’s crooked little fingers into accepting cash payoffs–not once, mind you, but at least nine times! Lon Monk could have walked away any time and gone back to the comfort of his beach front property. And if his intent was to stick around so as not to betray his “friend”, he sure ended up as the ultimate Arnold, wouldn’t you say?

    “Corruption by association?” Maybe, if these guys were sixth graders. He saw a corrupt opportunity and he took it.

  13. - Way Way Down Here - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 12:41 pm:

    I’m beginning to feel sorry for Harris. Can you imagine having to listen to that cr*p day in and day out.

  14. - Original Rambler - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 9:22 pm:

    Monk is the most disappointing. As COS, it was his job to pay attention to the details of how the State was run. He never seemed to embrace that aspect of his job. Now I know why. (And I had the chance to see him function in the early days.)

  15. - Been there before - Tuesday, Jun 29, 10 @ 12:25 am:

    Vanilla man,

    Personally, along with probably Steve Schnorff and others, would find your post completely offensive and way off-base. Many have served and administered millions and even billions, appropriately and without ever a thought about what is in it for me. Indeed, many also pursued and fought for appropriate policies and issues that could adversely affect employment after service in government and to the public. Not everyone is a crook or ill-intended. Despite what we too often see in the headlines. I wonder though, in today’s climate why anyone with qualifications would take some of these high level policy positions in this toxic enviroment.

  16. - If The Shoe Fits - Tuesday, Jun 29, 10 @ 9:12 am:

    CLEARLY - Rod Blagojevich was and still is the Ringmaster.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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