As almost every mainstream media member (MSM) is now reporting, reliable sources indicate that Defendant Rod Blagojevich will call Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr.(D-2nd Cong. Dist., Chicago) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D- Lakeview) to take the stand on Wednesday to anchor Blago's defense of the federal public corruption charges for which the former Governor was arrested on December 9, 2008. In the first trial, Blagojevich put on no defense and the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on twenty three of the twenty-four counts in the Fed's indictment of Rod, meaning that he was neither convicted nor acquitted of those charges.
The jury did find, in the first trial, Blagojevich guilty of lying to the FBI, and he faces one to five years in prison for that bit of dishonesty. Judge Zagel will make the decision on how long that sentence will be after this trial concludes.
When did Rod's team decide to call Rahm and Jackson to the stand?
Some of the MSM are reporting that the decision by Defense counsel as to who to call as witnesses was not made until yesterday and the prosecutors were then notified, which follows the protocol for notice to opposing counsel regarding scheduled witnesses that the government followed when putting on its case against Rod.
However this journalist thinks that it is likely the decision to call Rahm and Cong. Jackson was pretty much made by Monday, if not before. Senior Defense Counsel Sheldon Sorosky still was not saying on Monday who the defense would call and when they would let the Government know their schedule for witnesses for Wednesday. Sorosky made his comments to the few media who were in court on Monday afternoon to watch counsel hammer out the jury instructions, with Judge Zagel pretty much overruling most of the Defense's objections and alternate suggestions to the government's proposed jury instructions. However, anybody observing the scene, reading lips and listening carefully got the impression there was a buzz in the air consisting of two names: Rahm and Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Defense counsel may not be completely objective when assessing the strength of the case presented by the Government against their client, but when it comes to making decisions that are of great significance to their client, they know what objective observers know: Unless Rod just happens to have a friendly juror who has been bedazzled and charmed by him, he is now likely to be convicted on enough counts to face a decade of hard prison time.
A time for bold action by Team Blago
This is not a time for the Defendant to think his motion for mistrial filed on Monday, based in large part on the Judge's rulings that severely limited the kind of cross-examination Rod's lawyers could conduct, will be granted and give Rod a "do-over." Nor will a mundane defense with a few unimpressive witnesses do the trick, either. No, this is a time to wake up the jury and say, "You want a defense? I will give you a defense." You are going to hear from the first Jewish Mayor of Chicago (a great friend of the President) and a long time prominent African-American name, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (also a good friend of the President).
Yeah, that will wake the jury up, after sleeping through direct testimony that was presented in large part, without flair, and cross-examination that was punctuated with hundreds of objections that may have implied the Government wanted to hide something from the jury. Notwithstanding the presentation issues, the Government is way ahead on points. If defendant Blagojevich has any chance at all, it is with Emanuel and Jackson. Blago needs a game changer.
Suggested Direct Examination of Rahm Emanuel
What did Emanuel mean when he said that Obama would "value and appreciate," Jarrett's appointment to the Senate? Was it support for a foundation that Blago wanted to start and that might help Valerie Jarrett develop healthcare solutions as a Senator, as Blagojevich suggested to labor boss Tom Balanoff? An appointment for Rod down the line? If it is okay for Obama to offer these things, is it okay for Blagojevich to ask for them? Other testimony has indicated that Blago didn't think Obama was offering much for Jarrett's appointment? But, was Blago wrong? Was Obama offering something of value, but in the future? Isn't all of this just politics?
The Defense may be able to declare Emanuel a hostile witness and then ask leading questions since they are essentially doing cross. In any case, the above questions can be re-phrased and improved, but at the end of the day, is what Rod did any different from what Obama-Emanuel were offering? You only need one juror to say no.
That is, the main point for the jury to get is that what former Congressman, White House Chief of Staff and now Mayor Rahm Emanuel was doing is the flip side of what Governor Blagojevich was doing. Rod may have been more vulgar about it, more blunt about it, more crass, more self centered-- but at the end of the day, you can't convict Rod unless you are ready to convict Rahm and Obama. Counsel for the Defense do not have to say that. They just have to elicit testimony that causes the jury to think that. Emanuel could be the man to get that outcome for Rod.
Suggested Direct Examination of Cong.Jesse Jackson, Jr.
The same thing with Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. The jury has heard testimony from Rajinder Bedi that in a meeting a week before Obama was elected President, Bedi, Raghu Nayak and Jackson were present and fund-raising and the Senate seat appointment were both discussed. Hours after that meeting, Bedi said he told team Blagojevich if they appointed Jackson to Obama's Senate seat, Blagojevich would get $1 million in his campaign fund. Out of court, Jackson has said the two men began speaking "practically in Hindu" and said he didn't hear the discussion.
Counsel for Blagojevich should take Jackson through a series of questions about that meeting. At the end of the questioning, at least one juror should think Jackson had supporters who wanted to see him in the Senate and they were willing to contribute one million dollars to Rod's campaign fund to accomplish that. Jackson was at the meeting, but he defends himself saying--No speaka Hindu. This has to be a shot worth taking for Rod Blagojevich.
Will Rod take the risk of calling Rahm and Cong.Jackson to testify?
Things could end on Wednesday a lot worse for Rod than I have suggested. But, so what? Rod then gets fifteen years in prison as opposed to ten?
If you know Rod, he will roll the dice. He doesn't want to do fifteen years, or ten years. He wants a shot at walking out of court almost a free man (still has to deal with the 1 to 5 year conviction). So, yes, there are risks to calling Rahm and Cong. Jackson to the stand. But, to Rod, the benefits far outweigh the risks
Finally, Cong. Jackson could invoke the 5th Amendment and decline to answer any questions. But, if so, doesn't that help Rod with the Jury? Jackson won't answer any questions and they want to put Rod in jail, asks the jury? And, Rahm is unlikely to take the 5th. Wednesday could be a very good day for Rod.