Local News


Close Window E-mail This Page

Blagojevich Remains Silent Amid Charges

Required fields are marked with an asterisk(*)

The information you provide will be used only to send the requested e-mail and will not be used to send any other e-mail communications. Read more in our Privacy Policy

Send E-mail

   Digg    Facebook    Stumble It!    Delicious    Fark

Blagojevich Remains Silent Amid Charges

But Plenty Of Others Are Talking

CHICAGO (CBS) ― Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been silent since his arrest Tuesday and apparently has been told not to speak to the media.

On Thursday morning, Blagojevich left his Ravenswood Manor neighborhood house through the back door, kissed his wife and two daughters, and left in a vehicle from the alley. He arrived at the Thompson Center around 10:25 a.m.

"There's a sense of trying to return to normalcy," said Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero, who added that he doesn't know if Blagojevich will step down. "That's something that obviously he'll decide on his own."

Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, who arrested with the governor Tuesday, also appeared at work Thursday morning.

Blagojevich was also in his office all day Wednesday. He did not comment, but a spokesman said the governor was attending to pressing state business, including the budget.

But as CBS 2's Joanie Lum reports, plenty of other people are commenting, among them Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who was one of the first to call for Blagojevich's resignation.

It was no secret that Blagojevich and Quinn were far from close allies, but now Quinn has revealed just how divided the state's top officers were.

In an appearance Wednesday night on the CBS 2 News at 10PM, Quinn said Blagojevich cut him out of power right after taking office for his second term. 

"Right after the inauguration, Governor Blagojevich told me I wasn't part of his administration, and I don't think he handled himself well in his last couple years," Quinn said.
"The governor opposed, for a long time, the pay-to-play reforms. There was too much campaign money being given to state contractors that just got way, way out of bounds, and I told him personally, as well as his aides, that we need to have fundamental reforms there, and that didn't go over well. And I was for recall, I always have been for recall, and the governor blocked it."

Quinn also says that if he is made governor, he may opt to appoint President-elect Barack Obama's Senate replacement rather than wait for a special election.

Speaking on NBC's "Today" show Thursday, Quinn said that in general he's in favor of letting voters choose public officials. But he says that the economic crisis makes it vital for the state to have two senators in place.

Quinn says he'll evaluate the situation and make a decision based on what's best for the state.

Quinn says if Blagojevich doesn't resign, it won't be long before he's either impeached or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asks the state Supreme Court to declare him unable to serve.

Appearing on CNN Thursday morning, Madigan said she wouldn't wait "terribly long" to take that step.

President-elect Barack Obama has also called for Blagojevich to resign. He has tried to keep his distance from the issue, but is certain to be asked about the scandal at a news conference about health care downtown Thursday.

Meanwhile, Blagojevich is not winning popularity contests among local politicians. Among the others who have joined the chorus calling for Blagojevich to resign are U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Secretary of State Jesse White, and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Blagojevich, 52, was arrested Tuesday. FBI agents said he used the economic power of the governor's office in schemes to squeeze companies for kickbacks and get Chicago Tribune editorial writers who called for his impeachment fired. He allegedly threatened through a go-between to withhold state financial aid to the Tribune in selling Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.

But prosecutors said the governor's worst offense was a brazen attempt to sell the seat left vacant by Obama's election. The asking price: secretary of health and human services in the president's Cabinet, big-money jobs or campaign cash.

Blagojevich has not yet been indicted. He is only charged in a one-page complaint accompanied by a 76-page FBI affidavit. The government has 30 days to bring an indictment -- a time limit that can be extended repeatedly if a judge gives permission.

The Coming Indictment: What To Expect
Veteran attorneys say that when the indictment comes, it may bring to the surface an array of allegations not contained in the affidavit, and then the truest strength of the prosecution's case may be better judged.

The indictment could also produce a more sweeping case with additional charges, on top of the fraud and bribery counts Blagojevich already faces.

Every attorney surveyed said recordings produced by wiretaps will be crucial.

"You're going to hear Gov. Blagojevich's own words and they are going to be used against him in court," said New York attorney William Devaney, a former federal prosecutor. "That is extremely powerful evidence."

Professor Albert Alschuler of Northwestern University law school said "the strength of the case is in the wiretap evidence and the nice simple charges about the Tribune and the Senate seat."

"If I were the defense lawyer I would be sitting down with the clients and telling them that this is not a winnable case and we ought to try to strike a deal," he said.

He said one possible bargaining chip is the governor's office itself, if Blagojevich would agree to resign and not appoint a new senator to replace Obama.

New York attorney Martin R. Pollner noted that prosecutors must show "overt acts" to prove a conspiracy and such acts had to be more than talks with advisers.

And yet the recordings mainly consist of just that.

Pollner saw nothing criminal in talks about "what he wants to get and what he wants to receive, his hopes and aspirations."

He also said a defense attorney should ask for a change of venue because of a Fitzgerald news conference comment Tuesday that Blagojevich's actions would "make Lincoln roll over in his grave." He said such words could "poison the jury pool."

Meanwhile, some people have been questioning whether Blagojevich's behavior suggests he might be suffering from mental health problems. Could a claim of a mental illness be the Blagojevich's best defense in court? CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller says no.

"There's a difference between being crazy and being legally insane," Miller said Wednesday.

Miller says don't expect Blagojevich's attorneys to even try that defense.

"Now, he's saying through his lawyer 'I didn't know I was doing anything wrong.' That doesn't mean he had a mental disease or defect which is going to get him off the hook in a federal courthouse," Miller continued.

Defense attorneys have to prove mental illness prevented the defendant from knowing the difference between right and wrong.

Miller says that is a very difficult standard and the reason so many attorneys never use an insanity defense.

It's still early and it will be interesting to see what argument Blagojevich's attorneys make.

CBS 2's Joanie Lum and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

(© MMIX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

You need the latest Flash player to view video content.
Click here to download.

Click here to bypass this detection if you already have the latest Flash Player.