The grand jury re-indictment of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is a 75-page tale of intrigue, corruption, scheming and lies. Many of the cast of characters are mentioned by name; others are hidden under epithets like "Senate Candidate C" or "Deputy Governor A."
While Patti Blagojevich's name never appears in the document, "the wife of Rod Blagojevich" figures prominently in one facet of the alleged corruption. Specifically, the indictment alleges that real estate developer Tony Rezko paid Mrs. Blagojevich $12,000 a month while she provided "few, if any, services" to his company.
Yesterday, the defense argued that these claims should be dismissed. But the judge's response, coupled with an item in the very well-connected Michael Sneed's column on Thursday, suggest that Patti Blagojevich may not be out of the woods.
Judge James Zagel, who is presiding over Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial, was asked by defense attorney Shelly Sorosky to remove allegations related to Patti from the indictment. Sorosky argued that Patti had done work for Rezko's company, and that there was no proof that Rezko ever benefited from having the governor's wife on the payroll.
To counter this latter point, Zagel conjured an example from Chicago's seedy history: the Everleigh sisters, madames at a glamorous brothel in the early 20th century. The sisters were known to have paid the Chicago police to turn a blind eye to their business.
"I think that that would constitute bribery, even though you might not be able to point to a single specific action or inaction taken by those police officers," Zagel explains. "It might be bribery over a dozen years. Here, hypothetically, six years. ... It's still a bribe, even though it's very difficult to point to what the quo was for the quid."
"I think you're construing it too narrowly," the judge tells the defense.
In Sneed's Sun-Timescolumnshe raised a few questions:
Is former first lady Patti Blagojevich still in the line of fire? Is there fear her real estate dealings with Tony Rezko fall within the realm of indictability?
The questions Sneed poses are worth considering. If Judge Zagel is so confident that the defense is wrong to try getting Patti off the hook -- and worse yet, if Rod is convicted of the Patti-related charge -- that seems to point pretty strongly to some wrongdoing on the ex-First Lady's part.
The only question is, can the government mount sufficient evidence to bring Mrs. Blagojevich to trial as well? The bit from Sneed, who Rich Miller at the Capitol Fax describes as having "the best sources in the business" among federal prosecutors, suggests they might be moving in that direction.
So far, though, no official word that any such charges are in the works.
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