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Court: Unplayed Blagojevich Tapes To Stay Sealed

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ROD BLAGOJEVICH
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich stopped at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers before turning himself in to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Englewood just a few minutes away in Littleton, Colorado, to begin his 14-year prison sentence on corruption charges Thursday, March 15, 2012. (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images) | Joe Amon via Getty Images

CHICAGO (AP) — An appellate court in Chicago ruled Tuesday that transcripts of FBI wiretaps not played at Rod Blagojevich's corruption trials should remain sealed, at least for now.

The 7th U.S. Court of Appeals decision came as it continued to mull its decision on the imprisoned former Illinois governor's 100-page appeal, which was filed last July and asks the three-judge appellate panel to toss his multiple convictions.

The 57-year-old Chicago Democrat is in a Colorado prison serving a 14-year sentence, including for seeking to exchange an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat for campaign cash or a job.

The wiretaps in question are among those U.S. District Judge James Zagel barred the defense from playing to jurors. The appeal argues Blagojevich engaged in legal political horse-trading regarding the seat and that FBI recordings supported that contention.

Appellate courts typically unseal documents shortly after they are submitted along with an appeal. But prosecutors later asked that the transcripts not entered into evidence stay under seal, citing the privacy of some subjects on the wiretaps and other concerns.

Blagojevich's attorneys wanted them promptly opened, arguing transparency was "an important safeguard" against violations of a defendant's rights.

While it agreed to the government's request to keep the records sealed, the brief appellate order does say that if the court eventually concurs the trial judge erred by not admitting them, they will then be unsealed.

The court is expected to rule on the appeal within the next few months.

All the most sensational recordings are believed to have been released during or before Blagojevich's trials, so it's unclear if the transcripts at question could shed any new light on the scandal.

The most notorious recording — played at both Blagojevich trials — was of him saying about the Senate seat, "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden. And I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing."

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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm

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