Blago Witness: Jackson backer offered fundraising
CHICAGO (AP) – Federal prosecutors told a judge Wednesday that they had a witness who would testify that he heard a Chicago businessman offer to raise $1 million for Rod Blagojevich if the Illinois governor appointed U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.
That was said outside the presence of the jury in Blagojevich’s corruption case, however, and Judge James B. Zagel barred prosecutors from asking about the amount or other specifics.
So what jurors heard was a former state official saying he told Blagojevich’s brother that a wealthy businessman wanted Jackson appointed and could raise a lot of money.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner told Zagel that Rajinder Bedi, the former head of the state’s international trade office, would testify if asked about the offer allegedly made by businessman Raghuveer Nayak in October 2008 at a restaurant at which Jackson was present.
Bedi testified that he made the statement about the businessman to Robert Blagojevich, the governor’s brother, when the two had a meeting in October 2008.
Bedi said Robert Blagojevich’s reaction wasn’t positive.
“He said, ‘My brother will never appoint him to the Senate seat,’” Bedi told jurors.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to get a high-paying job or other financial benefit in exchange for the appointment to the U.S. Senate seat. He also has pleaded not guilty to plotting to launch a racketeering operation that included pressuring businessmen for hefty campaign contributions.
Robert Blagojevich, 54, of Nashville, Tenn., has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme concerning the Senate seat and the governor’s alleged efforts to squeeze campaign money out of business executives.
Jackson, Nayak and Bedi are charged with any wrongdoing in the case.
Prosecutors also played dramatic recordings from early December 2008 in which Rod Blagojevich sounds shaken when someone tells him a story will appear the next day that would say one former confidant, John Wyma, was talking to investigators and that there were recordings of his phone conversations.
“Recordings – of me?” Blagojevich says quietly after a long pause.
Soon after, he sounds unsure about whether his brother should go ahead with a planned meeting with Nayak – telling Robert Blagojevich in one phone call to cancel it, then to go ahead, then again not to do it.