Key prosecution witness to be back on stand at Blagojevich corruption trial for days
CHICAGO – CHICAGO (AP) — He is a central figure in the case against ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich: The former governor's aide led away in handcuffs the same morning in 2008 when federal agents swarmed in to arrest Blagojevich himself at his home.
Prosecutors say John Harris, Blagojevich's last chief of staff, was expected to testify again Tuesday at Blagojevich's corruption trial and remain on the stand for at least the rest of the week.
Harris, who is testifying in return for leniency after pleading guilty to wire fraud in the case, painted a picture Monday of Blagojevich as a man willing to punish those who did not do his bidding.
Harris, 48, said Blagojevich was trying to find his wife Patti a job because his family needed the money — in part because her work as a real estate agent was hurt by the investigation of the governor.
After he told Blagojevich that officials with two financial companies, including Citibank, had not found Patti Blagojevich a job, Harris testified the governor grew angry and told him to "make sure they didn't get any more state business."
Another former top aide to Blagojevich testified Monday that the former governor planned to hold up a $2 million grant to a school in then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel's district until the congressman's Hollywood-agent brother held a fundraiser for him.
Former Illinois Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk said he ignored the governor's directive to deliver the message to Emanuel — because, Tusk told the court, he thought the plan was "both illegal and unethical."
Afterward, Tusk said he also complained to the chief ethics officer in Blagojevich's office.
"I believe I used the phrase, 'You need to get your client under control,'" Tusk said.
Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky appeared to suggest that whatever remarks Blagojevich made were merely heat-of-the-moment comments — something Tusk agreed earlier the governor was prone to.
Nothing in the indictment against Blagojevich suggested that Emanuel — now President Barack Obama's chief of staff — was actually threatened.
Sorosky also pressed Tusk about why he never went to the police, prosecutors or other legal authorities about his concerns.
For his part, Blagojevich appeared relaxed and upbeat throughout the day. He smiled a number of times during the testimony and didn't show any signs of annoyance, even when Tusk described him as a disengaged boss who often left important decisions — even which bills should be signed or vetoed — up to him.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat Obama gave up following his November 2008 election. He has also pleaded not guilty to plotting to launch a racketeering scheme using the powers of the governor's office.
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 under federal guidelines.