Alonzo "Lon" Monk, who served as Blagojevich's chief of staff when
he took office in 2003, on Wednesday provided the federal courtroom
with allegedly firsthand accounts of the corruption that took place
in the Blagojevich administration.
"We were concerned because it
was in all likelihood was wrong and breaking the law," he said of
his and Blagojevich's secret meetings with Rezko and former
fundraiser Chris Kelly.
Monk said the four agreed to use the office of the governor to
rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars, which Rezko would
distribute in equal parts to each man at the end of Blagojevich's
tenure "when there would be less scrutiny."
Monk said the conspiracy began even before Blagojevich took
office, describing a parking garage encounter with Kelly in the
summer of 2002.
"(Kelly) said ‘the GOP had been in power so long that they could
benefit personally' from state action and because we were close to
Rod we could too," he said.
Kelly committed suicide in September 2009, just before he was to
begin an eight-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to
fraud and an $8.5 million kickback scheme.
Monk described a governor's office dominated by corruption.
Blagojevich relied heavily on the recommendations of Rezko and Kelly
to appoint department directors and state board members. But Monk
emphasized that he and his boss knew why each man was considered for
their post: "It wasn't about merit, it was about enhanced
The former chief of staff recalled one occasion in particular
where the governor looked to increase fundraising through state
action. In late 2003, then-congressman Rahm Emanuel -- who now
serves as President Barack Obama's chief of staff -- met with
Blagojevich to lobby state funds from him for Chicago Academy, a
school in his district.
But Blagojevich allegedly had more than the students and the
congressman on his mind.
"The governor's office could make it happen, but Rod told me to
hold out to see if he'd get a fundraiser with Rahm's brother (talent
manager Ari Emanuel) in Los Angeles," Monk said.
He testified that he understood his orders to be "no state
action, no money." The $2 million grant was eventually passed
through, though no fundraiser was ever held.
Monk did not look comfortable on the stand, pursing his lips and
furrowing his brow before answering questions in monotone. He
avoided eye contact with the jury and Blagojevich, whose wife,
Patti, could be seen shaking her head, as Monk shared stories of
vacationing with the Blagojevichs and sharing meals at their home.
The former governor, for his part, wore what appeared to be a
"what-can-you-do" smile as his law school roommate testified.
The prosecution painted a picture of secret meetings and
hush-hush conspirators more akin to a gangster movie than a typical
"There was a long conference table with a black easel at the end
of it," Monk said, as he described one such meeting at Rezko's
On that easel was a pad listing "eight or nine" schemes to use
the office of governor to make money, including plans to create an
insurance company to secure state contracts. Next to each plan was a
dollar figure of the expected take -- the lowest of which was
Monk corroborated the government's argument that Blagojevich was
a willing participant in the backroom dealings. Lead defense
attorney Sam Adam Jr. said in his opening statement to the jury that
Monk and Rezko were the real masterminds behind the corruption that
took place during Blagojevich's tenure. Such deals, he said,
happened behind his back.
[to top of second column]
But Monk testified that not only was Blagojevich inside the room
when conspiracy took place, he was "attentive and interested," as
Rezko led the corruption colloquiums. The same could be said of the
jury on Wednesday, who were wide-eyed throughout most of the day.
Monk was one of two star witnesses to take the stand on
Wednesday. Lead FBI agent Dan Cain opened the proceedings in the
morning and testified on everything from wiretaps to campaign
Cain talked at length about Blagojevich's fundraising largesse,
as he outspent opponents by millions in both the 2002 and 2006
elections. The prosecution is trying to link that apparent success
with convicted former Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board
member Stuart Levine, who was sentenced to life in prison for
multiple counts of corruption, and Rezko.
The prosecution went to great lengths to not only tie Blagojevich
to convicted former associates, but to justify the use of wiretaps
to secure evidence.
Lead prosecutor Reid Schar and Cain discussed in detail the
precautions that are used in order to prevent investigations from
delving too far into private lives.
The government gathered much of its evidence by wiretapping the
cell phone and landlines of the former governor, as well as his
brother Rob's cell phone and the phone at the office of the Friends
of Blagojevich fundraising headquarters.
Cain explained the process of minimization, in which agents stop
recording during personal phone calls.
But defense attorney Aaron Goldstein turned this argument against
Cain, asking him pointed questions about why so many conversations
were left out of the investigation.
The defense is arguing that such gaps could have vindicated
Blagojevich. Defense lawyers attempted to have all of the
investigation's 5,000-plus conversations played for the court. That
motion was denied.
Wiretaps have been an issue of great concern for the trial, as
federal Judge James Zagel asked some jurors about their feelings
about the recording process.
No juror who expressed skepticism of wiretaps during questioning
made it to the final jury, although the question was only asked of
In April, Monk pleaded guilty to conspiracy to solicit a bribe.
In exchange for his testimony, he will serve two years in prison,
rather than the five he initially faced.
Blagojevich, on the other hand, is facing up to 415 years in
prison if convicted of the more than 20 crimes he is alleged to have
committed, including extortion and racketeering.
Monk's testimony will continue at 9:30 Thursday morning. Adam
said he does not expect to cross-examine Monk until Monday morning.
Statehouse News; By BILL McMORRIS]