Monk has pleaded guilty in the case and is testifying in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence.
Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to scheming to profit from his power to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama and squeeze people for campaign contributions.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
CHICAGO (AP) — A key aide who was by the side of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich through most of his political career took the stand in his corruption trial Wednesday to testify against his old law school roommate.
Alonzo Monk is considered a key witness. Prosecutors say he was part of a tight group around Blagojevich who pressed companies for campaign cash on Blagojevich’s behalf. Monk pleaded guilty to conspiring to shake down a racetrack owner for a large campaign contribution and is testifying as part of the plea deal.
Monk acknowledged that he was testifying in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence and talked about how he met and became friends with Blagojevich. He also talked about how he got to know major Blagojevich fundraisers such as real estate developer Antoin “Tony” Rezko and millionaire roofing contractor Christopher Kelly.
Sounding calm, almost monotone during his testimony, Monk said Kelly and Rezko were in on deciding who got jobs in the Blagojevich administration after his election, recommending heads of several key departments, including insurance, housing and transportation agencies.
Prosecutors appeared to be trying to establish that Monk, Kelly and Rezko were all so close that they couldn’t help but know what the others were doing on the governor’s behalf. They also tried to show jurors that Kelly and Rezko raised lots of money for Blagojevich and were rewarded with clout — the influence they would have needed to pull off the alleged schemes.
Monk portrayed Kelly as especially close to Blagojevich, even taking their families together on vacation, including to Mexico and Bermuda. Prosecutor Chris Niewoehner asked Monk if there was anyone closer to Blagojevich in his first term than Kelly.
“Other than Patti (Blagojevich’s wife), and potentially me, no,” Monk said.
Blagojevich and his wife watched Monk intently during his early testimony and the former governor took notes. Patti Blagojevich’s sister Deb Mell, a state representative, sat next to her.
The former governor has pleaded not guilty to scheming to profit illegally from his power to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama and squeeze people for campaign contributions. If convicted, Blagojevich could receive up to 415 years in prison and fines totaling $6 million.
Monk was a Los Angeles sports agent when Blagojevich, then a congressman from a district on Chicago’s north side, called him to Washington to work in his office. Monk went on to manage Blagojevich’s campaigns.
In his opening statement on Tuesday, defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. had portrayed Monk as someone who had dazzled and befriended Blagojevich as a younger man, and then duped and betrayed him when he was governor.
“This case today is the governor’s fault. … Governor, it’s your fault,” the flamboyant attorney said about his client. “The governor’s judgment is horrible. He trusted Lon Monk.”
The former governor’s brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the plot to sell the Senate seat and to scheming to illegally pressure a racetrack owner, who wanted the governor’s signature on legislation involving the tracks, for campaign money.
An FBI agent was the government’s first witness. Special agent Dan Cain led the federal investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Blagojevich and members of his inner circle that resulted in Rezko’s conviction. Rezko was convicted in 2008 of using his clout as a key Blagojevich fundraiser and adviser to launch a $7 million kickback scheme. Cain explained how the investigation yielded thousands of wiretap conversations.