Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Senate trial Day 3: fewer witnesses

Hilary Russell contributed to this report.
Illinois Senate Republicans are concerned about the dwindling number of witnesses the prosecution team plans to call before the full chamber will vote on whether to convict Gov. Rod Blagojevich and remove him from office forever.

“Aside from getting to the verdict of the governor, I think that the people of Illinois deserve to have a full hearing and understanding of how far the corruption goes in this government,” said Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, before the tribunal broke for lunch.

Yet, many senators expect a vote by the end of the week. That’s largely because without a defense presented on behalf of the governor, less time is needed than scheduled.

The prosecution team originally planned to call 13 witnesses, but House Prosecutor David Ellis dropped five House members from the list in favor of reviewing the criminal affidavit affirmed by Daniel Cain yesterday. Today, Rep. Chapin Rose, a Mahomet Republican, testified about the plea agreements of Ali Ata and Joe Cari, previous members of the governor's inner circle.

Michael Kasper, counsel hired to support the House prosecution team, added that rather than have House members testify to give their characterization of evidence, it would be more appropriate for senators to look at that documents themselves and come up with their own perceptions.

Dillard said he was particularly worried about why Rep. Constance Howard, a Chicago Democrat, was scratched from the list. She originally was scheduled to testify about the injury to the people that has happened since the governor’s arrest, including a dropped bond rating that makes it more expensive for the state to borrow.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said the evidence intended to demonstrate the governor’s mismanagement of the state “seems to be getting truncated at this point.” She added: “I think it’s not good for the public. The public is the one that’s been harmed by this … I think that it’s incumbent on us not only to give the governor a fair trial, but to let the public know that we have a good handle on the extent of this corruption.”

The prosecution today is focusing on the governor’s alleged abuse of his executive powers, with additional testimony this afternoon from the legislative review committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Auditor General William Holland also will talk about the administration's effort to import European flu vaccine and Canadian prescription drugs, as well as an efficiency initiative that received bad reviews. We wrote about both items when the House heard similar testimony.

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