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Computer glitch 'unseals' parts of Blagojevich motion
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich


Associated Press

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Published: 4/22/2010 12:13 PM | Updated: 4/23/2010 9:38 AM

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Redacted portions of a motion by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to subpoena President Barack Obama were visible to the public online for a brief time Thursday due to what has been called a computer glitch.

The defense filed a motion in Blagojevich's corruption and racketeering case Thursday before U.S. District Judge James Zagel requesting a subpoena for the president because he "has direct knowledge to allegations made in the indictment.

"In addition, President Obama's public statements contradict other witness statements. ... There are two conflicting stories and the defense has the right to admit evidence that contradicts the government's claims. Only President Obama can do this."

Legal experts, however, predicted it's very unlikely we'll see the president at the impeached governor's corruption trial.

Much of the document was blacked out before being released on a federal court website.

But within hours of the filing, the public was briefly able to access redacted portions of the material online. In them, several witnesses were quoted as saying that a labor union official spoke of having a conversation with Obama on Nov. 3, 2008, in which Obama expressed hope that Blagojevich would choose an unnamed Senate Candidate B - frequently identified as the president's longtime friend, Valerie Jarrett, now a White House adviser.

The Chicago Tribune, which had posted a link on its website, reported that "a computer glitch" allowed the access.

The document quoted the unnamed labor union official as telling FBI agents and prosecutors that Obama thought Senate Candidate B "would be a good senator for the people of Illinois and would be a candidate who could win re-election."

Federal prosecutors immediately had the document pulled from the publicly available portion of the court's docket, and Zagel called an emergency meeting with prosecutors and Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky in his chambers.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, Randall Samborn, as well as three prosecutors declined to comment following the 15-minute meeting. Sorosky would not disclose what was discussed.

The motion cited how Obama was reportedly interviewed by U.S. attorneys on the matter but that prosecutors have not released anything on the interview in pretrial discovery, despite specific defense requests. It also quoted Obama's public statement that he is "confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat."

Obama also would be asked to testify on the credibility of political fundraiser Tony Rezko, convicted on corruption charges and believed to be a possible government witness, albeit a potentially hostile one for the prosecution.

The defense also refiled a 2008 letter from Rezko to a federal judge stating: "The prosecutors have been overzealous in pursuing a crime that never happened. They are pressuring me to tell them the 'wrong' things that I supposedly know about Governor Blagojevich and Senator Obama. I have never been a party to any wrongdoing that involved the governor or the senator."

Obama would testify on that, however, only if the subpoena were granted, which even the defense seemed to allow was unlikely by arguing extensively at the end of the motion while acknowledging "it is not commonplace to subpoena a sitting president."

It cited most recently Clinton v. Jones in 1997 in arguing "history is replete with cases in which presidents have been subpoenaed or have provided evidence in federal cases."

Chicago-Kent College of Law attorney and professor Richard Kling said it was unlikely Obama would be subpoenaed simply to say he had no knowledge of Blagojevich committing a crime.

"They're going to have to show what relevant testimony he could possibly give," Kling said. "The only thing Obama could say is, 'Here's what I was told,' which would be hearsay."

Kling said if there were direct talks between Obama and either Rod or Robert Blagojevich it would be a different legal matter, but even then he would probably be deposed rather than appearing in court because of security concerns.

"I would suspect Judge Zagel would not allow the testimony," Kling said, adding, "I doubt seriously that Judge Zagel would order him (to testify) as a character witness for Rezko."

Daily Herald news services contributed to this report