In Re: The Matter of Rod Blagojevich (Dissenting)
In re: The Matter of Rod Blagojevich, with all due deference to my esteemed colleague, Justice Eugene Robinson, I respectfully dissent. I concur in Justice Robinson’s finding that the evidence would support a conviction of Gov. Blagojevich for engaging in a criminal conspiracy with his barber “in the matter of his menacing mop.” I further concur in his determination that the citizens of Illinois “deserve better than to be governed by a late-night punch line.”
However, Justice Robinson’s conclusion that “it’s not immediately apparent what crime Blagojevich has committed except being something of a buffoon and a jerk” reflects an unfamiliarity with the law and facts underlying this case. First, the record makes clear that Gov. Blagojevich is not “something of a buffoon and a jerk.” This court, in my view, should take judicial notice of the fact that the governor is a buffoon and a jerk. See, e.g., Good Morning America, The View, The Today Show. Second, the evidence, albeit not fully developed at this stage in the litigation, appears entirely sufficient to support the conviction of the governor -- in the court of public opinion, the Illinois state senate and a criminal proceeding.
Justice Robinson’s depiction of the most incendiary charges against Gov. Blagojevich --that he attempted to sell the Senate seat made vacant by the election of President Barack Obama -- omits relevant evidence. See., e.g., Final Report of the Special Investigative Committee (hereinafter, Final Report).
It is true, as Justice Robinson notes, that Gov. Blagojevich’s alleged attempt to sell the seat was not consummated by the time of his arrest. It is further true that some of the evidence against Gov. Blagojevich, in the form of transcripts of his wiretapped conversations, may be mere political chest-thumping.
Justice Robinson’s assessment, however, conveniently ignores other, far more damaging comments. The benefits that Gov. Blagojevich discussed securing for himself in return for the Senate appointment include, inter alia, an ambassadorship; a cabinet appointment; or a lucrative position with a private foundation, at a salary of $250,000 to $350,000. This is hardly, as Justice Robinson implies, simply “known as politics.”
Moreover, as Justice Robinson surely recalls from his first-year criminal law class, a conspiracy -- the “darling of the prosecutor’s nursery” -- does not require commission of the underlying crime. There needs only to be agreement and intent to achieve an unlawful objective, combined with commission of a single overt act by any one defendant in furtherance of the conspiracy.
In the instant situation, the Final Report offers ample evidence that Gov. Blagojevich was “aware the plans he was considering with regard to the Senate vacancy were illegal and improper” and that he took numerous acts to put them in play. For instance, the criminal affidavit filed in support of Gov. Blagojevich’s arrest outlines how he directed Deputy Governor A to draw up a list of items that he might demand in exchange for the Senate seat and instructed that the list “can’t be in writing.” When Gov. Blagojevich told Fundraiser A that he wanted to see immediate campaign contributions from Senate Candidate 5, the governor instructed him, “You gotta be careful how you express that…” The day after The Chicago Tribune reported that the governor’s conversations were being tapped, the governor instructed Fundraiser A to “undo” that approach, suggesting his understanding of the possible criminal consequences of his acts.
Furthermore, Justice Robinson’s assessment ignores evidence of illegal acts by Gov. Blagojevich having nothing to do with the Senate seat. These include Gov. Blagojevich’s alleged attempts to condition state aid to the Tribune Company on the firing of members of the Tribune editorial board who had been critical of the governor, and efforts to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for state contracts or appointments. For example, discussing his plans to announce a $1.8 billion project for new lanes on the Illinois Tollway, the governor said he wanted to seek $500,000 in campaign contribution from Highway Contractor 1. “I could have made a larger announcement but wanted to see how they perform by the end of the year,” the governor said, apparently referring to campaign donations. “If they don’t perform, [expletive] them.”
“I question whether the tapes are enough to put him in jail,” Justice Robinson concludes. Time will tell which of us is right. For the time being, for the reasons detailed above, I respectfully dissent.
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