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Fed Prosecutors in Blago Trial Go For More Focused Case 2nd Time Around

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal prosecutors, after stumbling the first time around, unveiled a blueprint Monday for what they hope is a new and and improved case against ex-Ill. Rod Blagojevich.

The Chicago Tribune reports that in opening statements the prosecution presented a “much slimmer, more focused version of the government’s corruption case.” The first jury complained the case was too confusing and ended up convicting Blago on only 1 or 24 counts.

This time around, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner honed in on the headline grabber in the case: accusations that Blago tried to shake down Barack Obama by getting him to give him a cabinet position. In exchange, Blago would appoint an Obama friend to the vacant Senate seat.

“He was going to shake down the man who was going to become president of the United States,” Niewoehner said in opening statements, according to the Tribune.

“And right there, the crime is complete,” said Niewoehner.

The Tribune reported that “Niewoehner presented a concise view of the case that boiled down to essentially five criminal episodes: the alleged Senate seat sale as well as alleged shakedowns of a road-building executive, a racetrack owner, a hospital official and Rahm Emanuel when he was a former U.S. representative and close political ally of Blagojevich’s.”

But the prosecution left out of the opening a part that confused jurors in the first trial: a complicated scheme in which Blagojevich plotted with convicted fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko to siphon cash from state deals.

Blagojevich’s lawyer Aaron Goldstein in opening statements said the case amounts to no harm, no foul, the Trib reported. He said. Blagojevich talked a lot on the wiretaps, but “what ended up happening?”

“Do you think they found a big bag of cash hidden somewhere?” he said. “No, they found nothing because, in fact, there is nothing.”

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