Tags: US | Blagojevich | Trial

Defense Portrays Blago As Hotheaded, Well-Meaning

Tuesday, 29 Jun 2010 07:07 AM

The defense at Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial is trying to portray the then-governor as someone who, albeit prone to outbursts, always had the interests of Illinois at heart.

During cross-examination Monday of prosecution witness John Harris, Blagojevich's one-time chief of staff, defense attorney Sam Adam Sr. several times referred to what he dubbed his client's "spurts of volatility."

"The governor, to put it mildly, has a way of being volatile ... who yells and hollers ... and after he vets and gets it out of his system, he's fine," said the burly defense attorney, pacing before jury box.

In his earlier testimony, Harris had described a calculating, sometimes excited or angry Blagojevich desperate to parlay his power to name someone to Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat into a well-paying job.

The defense is expected to resume questioning Harris for a second day Tuesday, his sixth day on the stand.

"You were just talking ... throwing out ideas, speaking out loud, right?" Adam asked Harris about his discussions with Blagojevich about a private foundation job for Blagojevich. The judge sustained a prosecutor's objection before Harris could answer.

Adam also asked about the consideration Blagojevich gave to appointing rival Michael Madigan's daughter to the Senate seat. He asked if Harris heard Blagojevich say he'd "hold my nose" and appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan "if it's good for the people" and improves the chances of expanding health care and other policies. Harris said he had.

In court Monday, Blagojevich appeared more tired than on earlier days, slouching forward and rubbing his eye. He seemed to forgo his usual habit of taking feverish notes.

Blagojevich 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to get a high-paying job or a massive campaign contribution for appointing someone to the Senate seat. He also has pleaded not guilty to plotting to use the powers of the governor's office to launch a racketeering scheme.

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 time under federal guidelines.

His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell the Senate seat and illegally pressuring a campaign contributor.

Also on Monday, an FBI tape played in court showed that Blagojevich seriously considered Oprah Winfrey as a candidate to fill the Senate seat, calling the talk show host a kingmaker who could influence voters.

"She made Obama, she's up there so high nobody could assail this pick," Blagojevich is heard telling Harris.

Blagojevich had mentioned in TV interviews last year that Winfrey's name had come up. Winfrey said then that she was "amused" and that she was unaware at the time that she was under consideration.

On the tape played Monday, Harris says selecting Winfrey would be "crazy" and he is "not sure what she stands for." Blagojevich brushes such concerns aside.

But a few minutes later, Blagojevich appears frustrated about who to pick after Obama friend Valerie Jarrett withdrew her name to take a White House job.

"We're stuck in the mud," Blagojevich tells Harris.

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