Patrick Fitzgerald

Presser on Trial Verdict of Rod Blagojevich

delivered 27 June 2011

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address

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Good afternoon. Joining me to my far left is Jim Vanderberg from the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, to his right is Tom Brady head of the Postal Inspection Service here in Chicago, and to my immediate left is Rob Grant, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Chicago, and to my right is Reid Schar, Carrie Hamilton, Chris Niewoehner, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, and Lucy Rodriguez [ph] from IRS Criminal Investigation Division and along the wall you have Irene Lindau [ph] also from the Department of Labor, Silvia Carrier from the Postal Inspectors, Jay Hagstrum [ph], David Bray [ph], and Dan Cain from the FBI.

And I should note that Vick Aurora [ph] from the FBI -- Vick Aurora [ph from IRS, Pat Murphy from the FBI, and Jeff Dupilka from the Postal Service are not here but key participants.

I just want to say that obviously a short time ago a jury sent a loud and clear message -- a loud and clear message that Governor Blagojevich committed very serious crimes, shaking down a children's hospital, trying to sell a Senate seat, and demanding cash, campaign contributions in advance before signing a bill.

This is a bittersweet moment. Five years ago another jury sent another message that corruption in Illinois is -- is not tolerable. Governor Blagojevich did not get that message. It's sad that we're back here in just five years dealing with corruption again with this verdict.

But I understand a short while ago, the jurors hoped that they sent a message today that corruption is a serious problem that needs to be addressed and I hope that that message is heard this time.

I say it's bittersweet because as -- as sad as it is that we're at that point where this sort of criminal conduct took place in Illinois, we take great hope in the jury system. And we take our hats off to those twelve jurors who put aside their business, went about being jurors listening to eleven days of the government's testimony and evidence and listened to seven days of the defendant testifying, heard the arguments, heard the law and then cloistered themselves in a room and came to a -- a fair and just deliberation on convicting the defendant on seventeen of the twenty counts.

I want to thank the team. I really think that people may not appreciate how much hard work goes in from all the different investigative agencies, from the people doing the investigation, conducting the wiretaps, monitoring the bugs, and the hard work that the AUSAs and the paralegals in our office who are here today, did a great job and their combined work saw that this case was put before a jury.

We're gratified that the jury put in the time and effort to give it all a very, very close hear and the result is what it is, a verdict that's clearly found that the defendant was guilty on seventeen of twenty counts.

And I think I misspoke when I meant to introduce Lucy Cruz as Lucy Cruz and I just want to thank the trial team for their hard work. And we'll take questions.

No questions, we'll... Sorry, yes...



Question: What did you learn from the first trial in your presentation in the second trial?

Fitzgerald: Well, I think one of the things that we learned from the first trial and I, when I say we I mean the royal "we", the people doing the work behind me along the wall, took to heart whatever comments we heard from the jury.

Look, a lot of the counts were eleven to one, so part of the lesson we had to learn was not to overreact to a hung jury. Hung juries happen all the time in federal court. But we did make an effort to simplify things and slim things down.

And I was very proud of the trial team, the lawyers and agents and paralegals sitting in the room and discussing what they thought could be slimmed down and what made sense to focus more heavily on. And I think the second trial, I thought the first trial was well presented, I think the second trial was better presented because we learned from the first trial and made it -- made it simpler.

Question:  The FBI made the arrest of Mr. Blagojevich as he was on the cusp of following through with these plans that he was supposedly making to sell the Senate seat. Why didn't you wait till he actually did it, instead of acting before?

Fitzgerald: Two reasons. One should be plain, we don't like to see Senate seats sold. I mean, a United States Senate seat should not be put up for sale. You shouldn't let the sale happen. And I think we would have kicked ourselves and others should have rightly kicked us if we sat around and watched a Senate seat be sold. Our job is to try to prevent crime, not just to prosecute crime.

In addition to that you may have recall that there was a leak to a newspaper article that indicated Mr. Blagojevich was being recorded on. I think some of the story was a bit off, but that was involved. But it was clear to us that we needed to step in before a Senate seat was sold and not watch it happen.

Question: Some felt that you were a bit heavy-handed, not you personally but the prosecution was a bit heavy-handed by arresting him in his home, taking him out in handcuffs. So does this give you satisfaction today?

Fitzgerald: No, there's no, let's separate the two questions. We're not satisfied by a verdict. We would have been disappointed by a not guilty verdict. I think the people of Illinois are vindicated by our verdict. When a sitting official, a Governor, tries to sell a Senate seat, tries to shake down a children's hospital, and tries to demand cash before signing legislation that's sitting on his desk, that's an affront to the citizens and it's right that the citizens' interests are vindicated.

That's not a personal joy, it's bittersweet, but we needed him to see that. It's -- It's appropriate in the right cases to make arrests for the right reasons. I'll have you notice, you may forget that he was brought into this courthouse with no one seeing it. He was arrested early in the morning because there were reporters outside his house and people got there before then. So, it's appropriate which, it's not as if we go around and saying only people committing certain types of crime are allowed to be arrested. We did it for law enforcement reasons and we did it in a way that none of you were there to see it. So it wasn't done as any other reason then -- then the reason we did it. So I think it's appropriate.

Question: Leading to the investigate, into the leak of the, will there be an investigation into the -- the source of the leak?

Fitzgerald: And I can't comment on that whether there is or will be such an investigation. Obviously I would not be involved in that investigation since if -- if there was a leak it was from people who had access to the information who may be in or outside government, so I can't comment.


Question: There are a lot of legal commentators and others that said you're criminalizing politics, that the things he did are what politicians do all the time. What's your reaction?

Fitzgerald: That couldn't be any further from the truth. Let's think about it. When do you sell a Senate seat? If you listen to the tapes that were key to the jury, it was a tape at the end where he's basically saying we're going to get tangible political support, something up front. We have to see it. It was clearly cash. And anyone tells you that it's politics as usual, that you're going to get appointed to a Senate seat because someone's going to deliver cash as a campaign contribution, then we're in a world of hurt.

The idea that you're going to go to a children's hospital and say the rates for reimbursing pediatric care are going to increase only if you donate fifty thousand dollars to my campaign, a… basically a deal. Give me a contribution or we'll pull back the rate increase is outrageous. That's not politics as usual.

The idea that you have a bill sitting on your desk to benefit the racetrack industry and you rehearse with someone on tape that they should go out and demand that the person make a campaign contribution before you sign the bill, that's not politics as usual, that's a crime. And I think it often happens that people take what is criminal conduct and try to mush it into politics. There is legitimate politics, there are gray areas. Selling a Senate seat, shaking down a children's hospital, and squeezing a person to give money before you sign a bill that benefits them is not a gray area, it's a crime.


Question: [Crosstalk] What kind of {unclear at 7:25} are you seeking?

Fitzgerald: The -- The sentencing has not yet been scheduled. Obviously the -- the sentence is up to the judge. The judge will look at the sentencing guidelines. They have not yet been calculated and take into account all the relevant conduct. As in any other case, we do not want the judge to hear our position on sentencing from a TV camera, but he will see our position on sentencing when we file it in writing at the time of sentencing. Obviously the only thing I will say now is that we view the charged and convicted conduct as very serious.


Question: Obviously you felt that the, sir obviously you felt that the wiretap evidence was very strong and implicated the Governor in these crimes. Were you concerned at all when he took the stand himself that somehow he may be able to counter balance those and that might have worked to his advantage?

Fitzgerald: Any person who's involved in any way in a trial is always concerned about everything that happens in the trial. And there was eleven days of testimony and tapes and the defendant took the stand for seven days. So as a trial lawyer, people are concerned about what happens but that's part of the process. He had a constitutional right to testify. He did. The jury saw him testify in detail and I think the result is that they rejected his testimony in large part when each of the seventeen counts he was convicted of he specifically denied that he engaged in criminal conduct. So, I think that's all I can really say.

Question: Would you acknowledge that this case, the {unclear at 8:45}, the Ryan verdict is supposed to send a message to get corruption out of politics in Illinois. Is Rod Blagojevich an apparition or is he symptomatic of a culture of corruption that going to persist in Illinois politics?

Fitzgerald: I won't comment on whether there's a culture of corruption, what I will say is this, that we hope that if anyone out there ever tries to engage in corrupt conduct of that nature, that people come forward. We -- We had the good fortune in having excellent investigators and agents doing hard work. We -- We had the good fortune that the agents built the evidence so we can get a wiretap and a bug and capture the crime in, the crimes in progress. But we hope that the next time that anyone who hears any inkling of such activity would come forward and tell us. And that to me is the key is not to solve corruption by prosecution but solve corruption by the attitude people have. That people should not expect to be shaken down. People should be offended by being shaken down and should come forward and report it to us.

Yes? First and then second.

Question:  I found this trial to be much more understandable and much easier to follow. I think some of the jurors just told us that they felt that the closing helped them figure out what happened, to put the pieces together. How instrumental is dropping the racketeering charges -- {unclear at 9:56}

Fitzgerald: The one thing I would note is that we added the racketeering charges before the first trial in part because there was uncertainty in the Supreme Court as to where Honest Services fraud stood. During the trial, that was sorted out in a Supreme Court decision so it made it easier to drop the cases, drop those counts which were --


Question: {unclear at 10:19}

Fitzgerald: Well, we obviously dropped it to simplify the case in the hope that a simplified case would be easier to handle. We don't know what would have happened if we tried it again with those items in there, but we're gratified that the jury found the seventeen counts proven.


Question: {unclear 10:37}

Fitzgerald: I don't know if Reid Schar might be able to handle that better than I?

Schar: Sure. What the judge indicated was in the next seven days the lawyers for each side will sit down and discuss the defendant posting, I believe what's left from the forfeiture allegations which would be his principle residence and I believe a condominium that he has in Washington D.C. And there will be some paperwork that needs to be filled out in terms of his ability to post those things and a forfeiture agreement that he'll sign. And then those will be securing his bond.

Question: Do you feel any vindication by this...trial? And secondly -- {unclear 11:23}

Fitzgerald: The vindication is for the people of Illinois. The people of Illinois had a Governor who tried to sell a Senate seat and shake people down and the reason we went to a retrial was to see those counts tried -- tried through to a verdict. And we saw that seventeen of the twenty counts or eighteen of the twenty counts reached a verdict, seventeen were guilty and one not guilty and I think that's a vindication for the citizens who should not have that sort of conduct happen on a watch.

Question: Are you saying when you're talking about people coming forward sooner, was that -- was that a problem with this case? {unclear 12:04}

Fitzgerald: I wasn't counting on this case. What I was counting on is when -- when {unclear 12:09} asked the question, we had the Governor Ryan conviction, we had the Governor Blagojevich conviction and the path forward isn't to have convictions to deal with corruption, it's to have an attitude for people to be offended by corruption and to be more aggressive about coming forward. Some people did come forward but I wasn't counting on this case. The -- The future of Illinois will be a lot better when -- when people are offended by corruption and come forward with more vigor.

Yes sir?

Question: Did I -- Did I hear you to say that you, your office is not going to investigate how the Wyma cooperation was leaked to the Tribune?

Fitzgerald: What I said is if there were an investigation we would not handle the investigation.

Question: What office would you handle?

Fitzgerald: I...simply said, I wouldn't know. I wouldn't pick the office to investigate a leak if the leak was involving possibly people in the government or outside the government.

Question: Do you believe there should be an investigation?

Fitzgerald: I'm not going to comment on it, an investigation that's not mine. I never do that.

Question: Could Mr. Grant comment on it? Would the FBI…?

Grant: Oh yeah, I'll -- {unclear 13:08}

Natasha? [ph]

Question: A government witness testified that Jesse Jackson was at a table with a fundraiser discussing -- {unclear at 13:19}. Why haven't you [said] anything about -- {unclear at 13:25}

Fitzgerald: And -- And I can't comment on any -- any person's name who came up during the trial or during any of the testimony other than the defendant. And you shouldn't read anything into that. If you ask me about anyone's conduct in this trial other than the defendant, I can't comment on that.

Question: Can I just follow up...Operation Board Games....{unclear at 13:42}. Is it continuing? Is it not continuing. Is this -- {unclear at 13:47}

Fitzgerald: I -- I would say that Operation Board Games is -- is open as we still have a -- a trial to go but I won't comment beyond that because you've twinned it to a question I'm not supposed to answer.

Question: {unclear at 13:58}

Fitzgerald: I'm not going to comment on that trial and I'm not going to comment on -- on Mr. Blagojevich's intentions, so.

Question: {unclear at 14:10}

Fitzgerald: He -- He has not yet been sentenced. The sentence has not been scheduled and I'm not going to comment on that trial, which is still pending.

Question: {unclear at 14:22}

Fitzgerald: You were there in the courtroom when the judge wants to hear, see the post-trial motions and I think he has a status conference set for next month some time. And -- And we'll -- we'll hear then.

Question: Can you unequivocally say that no one in the U.S. Attorney's office could leak the recordings -- {14:39}

Fitzgerald: As to how that story got leaked, the only thing I can unequivocally say is I didn't leak it and if anyone here thought I did let me know. But, you know seriously I…take leaks seriously. I've been involved in leak investigations and if something leaked that's awful. And all I can say is I can't do a leak investigation if information was leaked that I knew. That's inappropriate. So, as a person who can't do the investigation, I can't comment beyond that.

If you're asking me unequivocally, I didn't do it and I have confidence, and -- and look you know, there's a story, I haven't read it since December 2008 and what's unclear is exactly where the information came from. I think people get confused in some cases because there are grand jury secrecy rules, so the government can't leak grand jury information. Witnesses aren't leaking grand jury information, they can talk about it, so I'm not assuming there's a leak. What I'm simply saying is there was a story in the newspaper that would indicate there was an investigation going on. Whether that came from someone outside the government or inside the government, I don't know, but I would not be the person to determine that. So, I don't want to create the impression that there is an investigation or not or that there was a leak or not, what I'm simply saying is that's not my role to decide and I probably shouldn't have commented, which has started me down this road, however I did.

Question: What happened to the story of Beard? [ph] He was on tape telling Robert Blagojevich to cancel the meeting with Roger Nyack. [ph] Do you think that that meeting would have gone ahead if that Tribune story had not appeared?

Fitzgerald: I'm not going to speculate on what would have happened under different facts. We did prove up what did happen which was prior to then. He tried -- tried to sell a Senate seat and was just convicted of it.

Question: In your opinion, I know you're a prosecutor and not a judge but his attorneys have said that they weren't able to get certain evidence before, in this trial, that they weren't able to present certain witnesses that they wanted, they weren't able to play certain tapes that they wanted to have heard. Does that fly? They would like a new trial. In your opinion do they have a leg to stand on?

Fitzgerald: In my opinion, they're not entitled to a new trial. What I'd simply say is there were lots of tapes played in -- in that courtroom and there's no tape that explains away what was said where he sent someone out to try and collect the cash and said basically, we want to see something up front, some of the stuff has got to start happening now, talk as if the world, the whole world is listening, meet in person, don't talk over the phone.

There's no mythical tape out there that explains that away. And as far as getting evidence in, we put in eleven days of the government's proof. The defendant took the stand for seven days. And the defendant presented his story to the jury. It was roundly rejected by and large in each of the seventeen counts that he was convicted of. So I think it was a fair trial. The government put forth its version. He put forth the defendant's version in the most direct way possible. He took the stand. And the jury decided.

Question: Legal observers have said that your reputation is on the line with this trial. What would you say to that?

Fitzgerald: I… think what was on the line is the interests of the citizens in being vindicated for people committing a crime. Every case we go into court, that… may have no attention is important to everyone in this building. It's important to the prosecution, the agents. It's important to the defendant. And you know this gets more attention. But every case we do in drug, gang work, and white collar work, and fraud and mortgage fraud is important. And we'll -- we'll keep proceeding.

Question: Mr. Schar mentioned maybe undermining the trial -- {unclear at 18:01}...Is this no harm no foul or is there ongoing damage from -- {unclear at 18:15}

Fitzgerald: I'm not going to comment, I think we can, you know we will say whatever comments are appropriate for sentencing for sentencing but I think we're just going to focus on today, what the outcome was and the jury's verdict. Okay? If there are no further questions…

Question: What -- What about your future? There's been talk about you, maybe FBI perhaps?

Fitzgerald: I think you missed that story a few -- a few months ago, so. I think Director Mueller is staying on or -- or that Congress is expecting to pass legislation to keep him on for two years, which I think is great. He's a terrific Director and the best person to fill his shoes is Director Mueller, so.

Question: How long do you plan on stay in your job? 

Fitzgerald: That's it. I think I'm just going to go to lunch and thank you all for coming.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Research Note: Transcription by Diane Wiegand

Audio Note: Edited to include only Mr. Fitzgerald's opening remarks and Q&A.

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