Year: 2010

Blago Update: No News

Day nine of Blagojevich jury deliberations and not so much as a note from the jurors since July 29th.

The only news to report is that NBC’s Channel 5 has scored victories at Scrabble and 80’s Trivia.

A good story on what jurors in former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s trial experienced can be found here.

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Blagojevich Jury Begin Deliberations


The jury, still including the alternates, is instructed by Judge Zagel. On the right is one of the government’s evidence carts that will go into the jury room.

Tribune story here

Rod Blagojevich

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“More of a Show than a Closing Argument”


That is how Judge Zagel described the rambling, theatrical performance of Rod Blagojevich’s lead attorney, Sam Adam, Jr., as he tried to refute the government’s case against his client.

Tomorrow, after instructions by the judge, the jury will begin deliberations.  And we will wait.

NYT story here.

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High Drama at Blago Closings

After a long day of closing arguments by the government that started with Asst. US Attorney Chris Niewoehner citing the famous “I’ve got this thing and it’s F***n golden” quote,

and where the only new news was that the Blagojevichs had brought their two young daughters to court, all hell came near to breaking loose at the end.

When Judge Zagel told Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer, Sam Adam Jr, that he wouldn’t be allowed to argue that the government didn’t call some witnesses because their testimony would have been helpful to the defense, Adam said that, with all due respect he wouldn’t follow the judge’s order.  Zagel threatened contempt, and Adam shot back “I’m willing to go to jail for this, your honor.  I cannot follow your order on this.”


It is now unclear whether Sam Adam Jr will be making the closing argument tomorrow for the former governor.

Chicago Tribune Blog here.

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20 year-old ‘South Park’ Critic and Taliban Wannabe


How Zachary Adam Chesser, who grew up in suburban Fairfax County, played football and rowed crew at his High School, came to espouse a fundamentalist Islamic ideology is not yet clear, but he was so greatly offended at an episode of South Park that supposedly showed Muhammad in a bear costume ( turns out it’s really Santa in the bear costume ) that he issued “warnings” on his website.

Chesser came to the attention of authorities when he attempted to board a flight to Uganda July 10.  He admitted that he was on his way to try to join an al-Shabab training camp.

Note to parents : if your teen is offended by South Park, it’s time to worry.

WaPo story here.


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Blagojevich Suddenly Mute


After months of proclaiming his eagerness to take the witness stand and tell his side of the story to the jurors Rod Blagojevich was silent as one of his lawyers, Sheldon Sorosky,  stood up and told Judge Zagel “the defense rests”.

Blago autograph, July 21, 2010
Always upbeat, Blagojevich was signing autographs for spectators in the courtroom during a short break.

Sun-Times story here.

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Couple Who Spied for Cuba Sentenced


Kendall Myers expressed no regret as he addressed Judge Reggie Walton at yesterday’s sentencing hearing saying the couple never sought payment from the Cuban government.  “Our overriding objective was to help the Cuban people defend their
revolution,” he said. “We share the ideals and dreams of the Cuban
revolution.” He went on to invoke Nelson Mandela as he boasted about the opportunity prison has given him to educate the African-American population there.

Judge Walton was unimpressed.  “If you believed in the revolution,” he
said, “you should have defected.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Harvey pointed out that although money was not the motive, the adventure and risk-taking were incentive enough. He quoted Kendall Myers as saying to his wife, Gwen, in the presence of an undercover FBI agent that it would be “fun” to resume their espionage activities. The couple also received medals from Cuba, and had a private meeting with Fidel Castro in 1995.

Kendall Myers got life. Gwendolyn was sentenced 81 months with credit for time served.  A financial judgment of $1.7 million, representing the total amount of salary Mr. Myers received while working at the State Department, was also entered.

WaPo story here.

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Russian Spy Ring


Three members of the alleged Russian spy ring who resided in Arlington appeared very briefly -about three minutes- in U.S. District Court, Alexandria yesterday for detention hearings that were postponed. Pictured above is Mikhail Semenko standing before Magistrate-Judge Buchanan.  The other two, Patricia Mills and Michael Zottoli, are pictured below.

Their detention hearing has been rescheduled for this afternoon.

I had such a short time to sketch them yesterday that I expect when I see them again in court today they will appear quite different to me.

WaPo story here.

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Turkey in the Straw


In the late seventies, during one of those end of the term marathon sessions of congress, then majority leader Senator Byrd invited members of the press to his office for an early morning briefing at the conclusion of which the Senator, wearing a bright red vest, picked up his fiddle and bowed a hot “Turkey in the Straw”.  I wish I could find that sketch.

The above sketch shows Senator Byrd during the Clinton Senate Impeachment trial in 1999.

RIP Senator Byrd

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Justice Stevens Farewell


As Justice John Paul Stevens prepared to read his farewell letter he noted that when he joined the Court in 1975 such a letter could well have been addressed “Dear Brethren”, but with two women on the Court – likely to be joined by a third – he began with “Dear Colleagues”.

Full text of Justice Stevens’ letter here.

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