Former governor Rod Blagojevich wasn't as chatty as usual this morning when he arrived at the federal courthouse, but he did reportedly flash a smile and wave at the press before heading upstairs to schmooze with court spectators who started coming back in droves to the retrial yesterday.
This morning, Blagojevich's defense team moved for a mistrial due to Jesse Jackson Jr.'s testimony yesterday. His team argues that, although they were aware of the allegation, they do not think the prosecution had enough of room to question the U.S. representative about it.
Blagojevich has just taken the stand and says to the jury "I used to be your governor. I am here today to tell you the truth," according to a Ward Room tweet.
We're live blogging his testimony and will have more as it comes in.
Update 1 (10:49 a.m.): Blagojevich dives into a lengthy diatribe of his life story. From his first job as a shoe shine boy at 9 years old, "it teaches you how to be more responsible with your work", to his NBA aspirations, describing his "reality check" after getting cut from Lane Tech's basketball tryouts, the verbose former governor spent 25 minutes just to reach 1974 in his "life story."
Update 2 (11:10 a.m.) Blago continues to drone on about his life story, describing his wardrobe as being akin to Saturday Night Fever's fashions while a student at Northwestern University and detailing how his experience at the institution brought out his insecurities. The former governor also said that August 16, 1977 was a very important day in his life. It was the day Elvis Presley died. Blagojevich has also detailed his "man-crush" on Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first Secretary of Treasury, and provided factoids on U.S. Presidents, like how Teddy Roosevelt was a sickly child.
The former governor also apologized to the jury for his foul-mouth, saying that he feels like an "f-n jerk" every time he hears the audio of himself calling the vacancy of President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat as "f-n golden."
Update 3 (11:30 a.m.) We are one hour into Blagojevich's testimony and we're still hearing about the Life and Times of Blago. Highlights include questions about his "disco hair" being a remnant of his heydays in the 70s; his Serbian birth name of "Milorod" (translation: Happy Worker); his rejection from Harvard University; and celebrity sightings while in Malibu for law school, which included Michael Landon, Olivia Newton-John, Dyan Canon, and "Farrah Fawcett-Majors".
Blago on his family: He talks about how smart his wife Patti is, and chokes up when talking about his father.
Actually related to the trial, he says his daughter warned him of his language. And on his expletive-filled tapes he had this to say: "When I hear myself on those tapes, I sound like an F-ing Jerk and I apologize." The former governor also says he believes in "full discussion" and that leaders "should be free" to bounce ideas off advisors to "end up in the right place."
The court is now in recess.
Update 4 (11:51 a.m.) The court is back in session. We'll have more soon.
Update 5 (12:15 p.m.) The prosecution makes their first objection when Blagojevich's tangent-filled testimony starts covering stories about Lon Monk, saying he was starstruck by him because of his father was the physician who delivered tennis star Tracey Austin. After saying "I loved Lon Monk", Blagojevich started to launch into Psalm 23, but his lawyer stopped him.
Now he's back on his law school days. When testifying about how he failed the Bar Exam the first time he said, "I can't say I came out of law school knowing much about law."
Update 6 (12:30): The court is back in recess after both Rod and Patti burst out in tears when the former governor starts talking about meeting his wife for the first time on a Saturday back in 1988. March 6th to be exact.
Update 7 (2:09): Court is back in session. Prosecutors tried to force the end of the long answers coming from Blagojevich, but Judge James Zagel responded with, "It's fine. This is his chance to tell his story."
Blagojevich then picks up where he left off talking about how he met Patti, who was wearing a red dress at the time, at a fundraiser for her father Dick Mell. He then described how good Patti was to his mother, which made him want to marry her. The former governor went on to detail how his father died and his regrets for not having been there with him when the elder Blagojevich passed away.
Blagojevich has now busted out his wedding album, showing the jury pictures, including one of Monk as a groomsman, saying "one of my two best friends in life." He also said that Monk read from Psalm 23 at his wedding, but didn't try to recite it this time around. The ex-governor also explained how he bought Patti's engagement ring from Marshall Fields for $5,000 in 1988 and asked Dick Mell for his daughter's hand in marriage. "I would have found a way around the legislature to marry her," said Blago.
Update 8 (2:57 p.m.): Blago is now talking about Jesse Jackson Jr., saying he "really liked" him initially and was "close to the family." The defense even showed a 10-second video featuring a "hugfest" between the two politicians at the 2008 Democratic Convention. Blago denies ever talking about appointing Sandi Jackson to head the state lottery, saying "I don't remember anything remotely like that," but said he appointed the woman Rev. Jesse Jackson recommended. Blago also denies asking Jackson Jr. for campaign contributions. The former governor also talked about getting booed by 40,000 Cubs fans when he threw the opening pitch to a game, but was cut of by Judge Zagel before we went into further detail about that experience.
Blagojevich then started talking about his run for governor, explaining that he ran because of the help he could provide to others, including "ordinary people" like his "parents." The former governor does admit to having Tony Rezko help him fundraise for his gubernatorial campaign and says he picked Monk to serve in his administration because he didn't have ties to Chicago.
A short sidebar was called when Blago started talking about fundraising; he also pointed out that President Obama is a good fundraiser. The ex-governor also detailed how he met another fundraiser of his, the late Chris Kelly, at a nightclub.
Judge Zagel is now beginning to push the former governor to shorten his answers and listen carefully to the questions being asked. While the jury is out of the courtroom taking a short break, Zagel tells Blago's defense attorney to stay in control of the witness and cut him off when necessary.
Update 9 (4:53 p.m.) Blagojevich's testimony continues with discussion of allegations that he held back on funds for a school in Rahm Emanuel's former congressional district because he wanted a fundraiser in exchange for it. The former governor says he thought the school had already received the grant and called Emanuel a "hard-working, hard-charging kind of guy." He said the same of his aide Bradley Tusk. Blagojevich also recalled how Emanuel walked him through the Oval Office while working in the Clinton administration, describing the room as "a lot smaller that it is on TV."
His testimony about Emanuel continued as he detailed his experience at a fundraiser thrown by Ari Emanuel for his brother saying he met Larry David there and thought it was pretty cool, although "it wasn't like Elvis, but it was pretty good." Blago says he asked John Wyma for a similar fundraiser explaining that when it comes to fundraising, "If you're in a strong political position, it gives you the independence to ... lose friends ... and political allies," according to a tweet by the Sun-Times' Natasha Korecki. Blagojevich then went on to deny allegations that he never shook down Emanuel for campaign cash.
When testifying about Monk taking money from Rezko, Blagojecvich said he would not have looked kindly on the transactions because "it's wrong."
Blagojevich continued with his trend of long-winded testimony and was cut off by Judge Zagel when he tried to quote Harry Truman. When his testimony turned to discussion of former president of the state Senate Emil Jones, the ex-governor started talking poorly of him saying he betrayed and "humiliated" him on the ethics bill after getting a call from President Obama. When he stopped to then assure the court that he actually likes Jones, Judge Zagel stopped Blagojevich saying "He'll understand."
On allegations that he shook down a racetrack owner for campaign funds threatening that he wouldn't sign a bill that would benefit the industry if he didn't get the funds, Blagojevich said he did not do it. He then went on to detail a fundraising event the horse track owner, John Johnston, held that provided more celebrity sightings for the ev-governor, including Regis Philbin and Donald Trump.
Court is now adjourned for the day. Blagojevich will take the stand again tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. They plan to remain in court until Noon. Check back with Progress Illinois for the latest on Blagojevich's testimony.