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Blagojevich transcripts at issue in appeal

Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 8:36 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO – Whether to unseal transcripts of FBI wiretaps that were not played at Rod Blagojevich's corruption trials but that were submitted as part of his appeal became a point of contention Monday between prosecutors and the defense.

While the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago is still mulling its decision on the imprisoned former Illinois governor's request to toss his convictions, it had indicated it would unseal the transcripts Monday.

The recordings in dispute are among those trial Judge James Zagel barred defense lawyers from playing to jurors. Among the arguments in Blagojevich's 100-page appeal is that the tapes could have helped the Illinois Democrat make his case for acquittal.

Blagojevich, 57, is in a prison near Denver serving a 14-year sentence, including for illegally seeking to exchange an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat for campaign cash or a job.

Before the appellate court could unseal the transcripts at issue Monday, the government filed a motion late Friday objecting, citing the privacy of some subjects on the wiretaps and other concerns.

In a response filed Monday, the defense urged the court to promptly open the records, arguing transparency was "an important safeguard" against violations of a defendant's rights.

All the most sensational recordings are believed to have been released during or before Blagojevich's trials, so it's unclear if the transcripts at question in the competing motions could shed any new light.

The most notorious recording – played at both Blagojevich trials – was of him saying about the Senate seat, "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden. And I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing."

The appeal argues Blagojevich engaged in legal political horse-trading regarding the seat and that FBI recordings supported that contention. A ruling on the appeal is expected within several months.

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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm

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