Tags: US | Blagojevich | Trial

Tapes Played at Trial Reveal Shaken Blagojevich

Thursday, 08 Jul 2010 06:59 AM

It's in his voice — a moment when Rod Blagojevich seems to realize he may be in big trouble.

In other wiretap recordings played at his corruption trial, the ousted governor is rarely at a loss for words — and often profane — as he allegedly discusses ways to finesse his actions as governor into personal gain.

But when his spokesman, Lucio Guerrero, calls him at home late at night and tells him — in a recording played in court Wednesday — that investigators have apparently been secretly taping him, the governor pauses for several seconds, silence on the line.

"Recordings — of me?" he finally says quietly, audibly shaken.

The next morning, Blagojevich still sounds off-kilter — telling his brother Robert Blagojevich to cancel a meeting with a fundraiser, then to go ahead, then again not to do it.

The call about the wiretaps came just five days before Rod Blagojevich's arrest, as he seemed to entertain more seriously the idea of appointing U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

Earlier on Dec. 4, 2008, a more confident Blagojevich can be heard cursing as he tells his brother that he may get more out of appointing Jackson even though he has said repeatedly he doesn't trust him. At one point, he refers to Jackson as an "uber African-American," while his brother calls him "an articulate incompetent."

"I'm so (expletive) repugnant to them, then fine, take Jesse Jr.," Rod Blagojevich says on the tape about Washington insiders who Blagojevich says he knows don't like him.

Prosecution witness Rajinder Bedi, the former head of the state's international trade office and a prominent figure in Chicago's Indian-American community, is expected to take the stand again Thursday to field questions from the defense.

On Wednesday, assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner told Judge James B. Zagel that Bedi would testify if asked that he was on hand at an October 2008 meeting at which businessman Raghuveer Nayak told Jackson he would raise $1 million for Blagojevich's campaign if the governor would appoint Jackson to the Senate.

Zagel barred prosecutors from allowing jurors to hear specifics such as the alleged $1 million figure or the allegation that Nayak spoke directly of trading money for the seat.

Jackson, the son of the civil rights leader, has said before that he knew nothing of any scheme to use campaign money to buy his way into Obama's former Senate seat. Jackson, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, did not immediately return messages left at his offices on Capitol Hill and in suburban Homewood.

Nayak, who also is not accused of wrongdoing, did not immediately reply to a message left on his answering machine.

Zagel did allow Bedi to testify that he had attended the meeting with Jackson and Nayak. He also allowed Bedi to testify that he spoke of the matter later to Robert Blagojevich, who was heading his brother's campaign fund at the time. Bedi said Robert Blagojevich's response was negative.

"He said, 'My brother will never appoint him (Jackson) to the Senate seat if Obama is elected president,'" Bedi testified.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to trying to get a high-paying job or big campaign contribution in return for appointment to the seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in a racketeering scheme using the powers of the governor's office.

Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the scheme involving the Senate seat and to scheming to pressure businessmen for campaign funds.

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