…well, I stop writing about crime and the leader of our state goes and gets himself in more trouble than you can imagine.
I can’t imagine I’m going to add much to the indignation and anger of the citizens of Illinois. I’m also fairly agnostic as to whether he is prosecuted or not. He’s been so ineffective as a governor that it’s hardly different whether he’s under indictment or not.
Here’s what I will add. His defense strategy is smart for two reasons. First, it’s obvious he’s not going to admit to anything. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (behind a subscription wall) noted that the Trib flubbed the story somewhat. They knew about the cooperation of John Wyma, Blagojevich’s former chief-of-staff and the Feds asked the Trib to sit on it. The Trib did so, for awhile, and then they broke the story only 24-hours before the Feds came out with the indictment…and Fitzgerald probably moved because he figured the news story blew the cover off their investigation. Essentially the Trib forced the hand of the Feds and they moved earlier than they wanted.
What did that early move result in? Well, as other local attorney’s have pointed out Blogojevich may not have broken the law…yet. And even Fitzgerald tacitly admitted it in his press conference (which I got to hear live on the radio as I was driving from court) that he was stopping a crime in progress.
Well, fraud and conspiracy to deprive the People of Illinois of the rightful services of their elected officials isn’t exactly like an armed robbery or a carjacking. The interruption means that the act wasn’t completed in any meaningful way. And I’m sure Ed Genson understands this. I’ve been pissing off my friends for days by pointing out that…well…Blogojevich didn’t get anything from these people he spoke of. Where’s the crime?
The second reason his tactic is smart is this. Blagojevich is signalling to the political elite of Illinois that he’s not turning on them. That he’s going to stick to his story of “this was all just political talk…the kind we all engage in!” He’s telling the political elite that their version of events should mirror his. One of the reasons for this, rather obviously, is that anyone engaged in discussions with Blogojevich of the nature the Feds say was illegal could also be charged with a crime. There was a lot of discussion on this point on the ISBA email forums over the last few weeks. Essentially, if you were a politician interested in the seat and Blogojevich or a member of his core group made you an exchange offer (hard cash to his wife, or a job, or something besides a direct campaign contribution which may not be illegal at all) and you didn’t report it, then you’re complicit. And Rod is letting them all off the hook by claiming he never did such a thing.
This is obviously smart since he’s going to need these people not to turn on him and run to Fitzgerald’s investigation. I don’t like the way this is actually looking. To me, Fitzgerald knew he had a slimeball on his hands and was likely to break the law at some point if he wasn’t stopped. And he knew once the Trib started running the stories of wires Blagojevich would go to ground and if any deal was made Fitzgerald would be unlikely to catch it. So he moved prematurely, knowing there would be virtually no fallout from the public for nailing a guy the general citizenry of Illinois loathes.
It’s not justice, but it looks like Chicago justice.