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Blagojevich may take stand tomorrow

Associated Press / July 19, 2010

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CHICAGO — After promising for a year and a half to take the witness stand, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is likely to testify at his federal corruption trial this week.

Unlike in his TV interviews, Blagojevich is going to be under oath. And the grilling he gets from government attorneys about charges that he sought to sell or trade President Obama’s former US Senate seat is guaranteed to be tougher than anything he faced on the talk-show circuit.

Taking the stand, possibly as early as tomorrow, is a high-risk move that many lawyers warn could backfire. They say that to have any chance of winning over jurors, Blagojevich must become the soul of humility, admitting faults and apologizing but insisting he never intended to violate the law.

Federal officials won’t say who Blagojevich’s interrogator in the cross-examination will be. But that role is expected to fall to the trial’s tough, methodical lead prosecutor, Reid Schar.

In presenting their case, prosecutors have played numerous tapes recorded secretly by FBI agents before Blagojevich was arrested in December 2008.

Jurors have heard him agonizing over whether to fill the Senate seat that Obama was leaving to move to the White House with the new president’s friend Valerie Jarrett; to appoint US Representative Jesse Jackson Jr.; or even name himself to the job.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to get a big job or a massive campaign contribution for the Senate seat. He also has pleaded not guilty to plotting a racketeering operation in the governor’s office.

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