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Judge calls effort to get new trial for Blagojevich ‘harebrained’

Rod Blagojevich

Rod Blagojevich

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U.S. District Judge James Zagel took a mere three minutes Monday morning to dismiss a motion by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys as “harebrained.”

Blagojevich’s attorneys sought a new trial based on a report that the jury forewoman had displayed a juror questionnaire in a public talk she gave about the trial. Those questionnaires are not supposed to be taken from court, Blagojevich’s attorney said.

It is unclear whether the forewoman displayed a filled-out or blank questionnaire.

“The motion was prepared without any adequate thought,” Zagel scolded Blagojevich attorney Lauren Kaeseberg. “You should seek outside counsel . . . and send a letter of apology to the juror.”

Zagel said he could hold Kaeseberg in contempt of court but was cutting her slack because she was a fairly new lawyer.

“By the absence of precedent, I assume you couldn’t find precedent,” Zagel said, calling the filing “beyond my imagination.”

Two weeks ago, Zagel sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison on charges of trying to use his office to enrich himself.

Kaeseberg and Blagojevich’s other lawyers defended themselves after the brief hearing.

“I stand by the motion — the motion was absolutely filed in good faith,” Kaeseberg said. “Frankly, I’m disappointed because I know we filed this motion in good faith . . . I’m proud of the work I’ve done on this case . . . I’m actually proud of the motion.”

Kaeseberg has been practicing criminal law since she was sworn in as a lawyer in 2008, she said. As a defense lawyer, she would be negligent if she found out a juror may have committed a rule violation and she did not investigate.

“The issue is trying to resolve whether she has something in her possession that we don’t think she should have,” Kaeseberg said “We are not allowed to speak to the jurors ourselves. The only way we can really resolve it and find out is by going to Judge Zagel and asking him to have a hearing.”

Co-counsel Aaron Goldstein added, “Quite frankly, we would not be good attorneys if we didn’t file this motion.”

Asked if they were prepared to apologize to jury forewoman Connie Wilson, Goldstein said, “We in no way intended to hurt Ms. Wilson in any way.”

Asked about the “harebrained” comment, lead attorney Sheldon Sorosky quipped, “I don’t know, I don’t have a lot of hair.”

Goldstein chimed in: “He doesn’t have hair — I don’t have a brain.”



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