CHICAGO – The birth of a conspiracy to profit from Rod Blagojevich’s position came as early as 2003 when the then-governor met with three close advisers to discuss how to make money and divvy up the spoils, a key witness testified Wednesday.
In dramatic testimony at Blagojevich’s corruption trial, his one-time chief of staff Alonzo Monk said the two of them, along with fundraisers Tony Rezko and Christopher Kelly, discussed various ways they could make money through state action.
Monk, who was Blagojevich’s law school roommate and was by his side through most of his political career, said the group calculated that each of several schemes would raise $100,000 each and that the money would be divided up equally among the four.
But Monk said he and Blagojevich would get the money only after the governor left office.
“We didn’t want to be receiving that money when Rod was in office, where there was potentially a lot of scrutiny … (from) some law enforcement agency … it could have been the media also,” he said.
As for why he was so concerned, he said: “In all likelihood, it would be wrong and breaking the law.”
The money, Monk said, “would be held in separate accounts that would be difficult to locate,” and added that Rezko would oversee those accounts.
Monk has pleaded guilty in the case and took the witness stand hoping he can get a lighter sentence. Much of his testimony so far was aimed at the racketeering portion of the charges against Blagojevich.
The former governor has pleaded not guilty to scheming to profit from his power to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama and squeeze people for campaign contributions. If convicted, Blagojevich could receive up to 415 years in prison and fines totaling $6 million.
The group referred to themselves as “one, two, three, four,” Monk said. He said the first person to talk to him about making money from state actions was Kelly, who was found dead last year in what police say was a suicide.
Monk was remarkably frank when asked why he took the idea of making money from the state seriously.
“I was intrigued by the topic and I wanted to make money,” he said matter-of-factly.
One of several schemes they discussed but never implemented, Monk said, was to set up an insurance company that would draw thousands of dollars of state business — directed to it by the Blagojevich administration. according to Monk.
Monk said Blagojevich wanted to run for president and that Rezko and Kelly wanted him to do it if the opportunity was there.
He also said Blagojevich had a personal tailor and sometimes bought as many as nine suits at a time.
“How was the defendant Blagojevich’s taste in suits?” asked prosecutor Chris Niewoehner. Monk seemed flustered.
“Good,” he finally said. People in the courtroom laughed, Blagojevich as much as anybody.