Tags: US | Blagojevich | Trial

Ex-Ill. Official to Be Back On Stand in Blago Case

Monday, 21 Jun 2010 07:18 AM

The corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was expected to pick up Monday with a former state finance official being questioned by defense attorneys.

Ali Ata, who was executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority, testified last week that he got his job from Blagojevich after contributing $50,000 to the former Illinois governor's campaign.

Prosecutors have told presiding Judge James Zagel they intend call several other witnesses, including racetrack owner John Johnston. The government Blagojevich's inner circle shook down Johnston for a $100,000 campaign contribution in return for the governor signing a racetrack bill.

Also expected to testify is Bradley Tusk, a former deputy governor who Blagojevich allegedly ordered to pressure then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel for campaign money. But there is nothing in the indictment of Blagojevich to suggest that Emanuel — now President Barack Obama's chief of staff — was actually threatened.

Zagel could also address on Monday a request last week by prosecutors that he bar the one-time congressman and twice-elected governor from speaking to the media. Instead, Zagel told attorneys to try to come up with an agreement on what all parties in the case could say in public and report back to him.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat President Barack Obama gave up following his November 2008 election. He has also pleaded not guilty to plotting to launch a racketeering scheme using the powers of the governor's office.

If convicted, Blagojevich could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, although he is certain to get much less under federal guidelines.

His brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell the Senate seat and to plotting to illegally pressure Johnston for a $100,000 campaign contribution.

Much of the testimony in the first two weeks of the trial has come from witnesses who also took the stand two years ago at the trial of Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko. Rezko was convicted of planning to launch a $7 million kickback scheme and is awaiting sentencing.

Ata testified at both trials that the exchange of the $25,000 campaign check took place in a conference room in Rezko's Chicago office.

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