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Blagojevich trial hears differing views on alleged favors


Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (R) and his wife Patti enter the Dirksen Federal building for the start of his corruption trial in Chicago, Illinois in this June 3, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Frank Polich
Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (R) and his wife Patti enter the Dirksen Federal building for the start of his corruption trial in Chicago, Illinois in this June 3, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Frank Polich

By Eric Johnson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich did not want to mix fundraising and governing, a former aide said on Monday, but other witnesses said political donations and government favors were linked.

The admission from former aide John Wyma came during cross-examination at the Blagojevich retrial. Wyma was testifying about an increase in the State's reimbursement rate for funding of pediatric care at a local children's hospital.

"Rod never said to you 'I am only going to give the hospital this money if they do a fundraiser,' did he?" said defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky.

"No" Wyma said.

"Didn't Rod say that he didn't want to mix government and fundraising?" Sorosky continued.

"Yes," said Wyma.

Wyma had previously testified that he agreed to cooperate with the public corruption probe because he was concerned Blagojevich was trying to swap official actions for campaign cash. Blagojevich has told reporters Wyma is lying.

Blagojevich is on trial for a second time on 20 charges including bribery, extortion, conspiracy and wire fraud.

Prosecutors allege Blagojevich tried to leverage the appointment to fill President Barack Obama's U.S. senate seat and other official actions for personal and political gain. His defense claims Blagojevich received no money and was just talking a lot.

His first trial ended in August with a jury convicting him on a single count of lying to the FBI. The jury deadlocked on the other charges.

In later testimony on Monday, the chief executive of the children's hospital Wyma was testifying about appeared to contradict what Wyma said.

Chief Executive Patrick Magoon told the court he made several political contributions to Blagojevich. He had also asked the governor for an increase in state reimbursements to the hospital, which was granted in the first quarter of 2009.

The increase in state aid to the hospital would not have happened without the political contributions to Blagojevich, Magoon testified. The governor's brother Robert called after the hospital received the funding, to ask for a $25,000 contribution to Blagojevich, Magoon said.

"From my perspective, the two were linked," Magoon said, describing the apparent deal as "a contribution for a rate increase."

Prosecutors later questioned Gerald Krozel, a former executive at a construction materials company. He testified that Blagojevich pressured him to raise campaign money in exchange for a tollway program, which he was told would eventually be worth $6 billion.

"There was a connection between the amount I was going to raise and the project itself," Krozel said, adding that he supported the program because of worsening economic conditions in Illinois. "The connection was that I felt that if I didn't raise any money then there wouldn't be a tollway program."

Krozel said Blagojevich pressured him to raise funds before an ethics law took effect at the end of 2009 barring state contractors from making political contributions.

Earlier on Monday, U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he would not allow Blagojevich to review notes of interviews between Obama and FBI agents.

Zagel said the defense was not entitled to the notes because there no evidence that Obama knew Blagojevich was allegedly trying to execute shakedowns.

The next witnesses will be Blagojevich's friend and fundraiser Alonzo Monk.

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

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