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Blagojevich ducked duties, witness says

Ex-governor tried in Chicago

CHICAGO | Rod R. Blagojevich hid in the bathroom, ducked into a backroom and left the office early to avoid discussing complex issues with his budget director, his former deputy said Thursday at the ousted governor's corruption trial.

Former Deputy Gov. Robert Greenlee portrayed Mr. Blagojevich as disengaged from daily affairs of state government, saying the governor spent on average two to eight hours a week in his office. He said that during working hours, the governor generally was at home or attending high-profile events.

Mr. Greenlee said he would confer with Mr. Blagojevich by telephone when they discussed issues and policy matters, but that he once had to go to dinner with the governor and his family at a bowling alley to get him to focus on legislation that had to be addressed immediately.

Former budget Director John Filan, Mr. Greenlee testified, had to chase after the governor to get him to discuss important items.

"He would hide in the bathroom, hide in the backroom or leave early," Mr. Greenlee said, adding that Mr. Blagojevich went to great lengths to avoid staffers whom he felt disagreed with him too often.

Mr. Greenlee also said Mr. Blagojevich wasn't initially invited to Barack Obama's victory rally the night of the 2008 presidential election, but his staff managed to get him credentials - on the condition that he not actually attend.

The Obama campaign, Mr. Greenlee said, "had concerns about being seen with him." Mr. Greenlee said the credentials were finally approved after Mr. Blagojevich's staff promised he wouldn't show up. Mr. Greenlee said that was to avoid bad publicity for being snubbed.

Meanwhile, according to earlier testimony, Mr. Blagojevich was trying to get a Cabinet post in the new administration.

Mr. Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to trying to get a high-paying job or big campaign contribution in return for the appointment to the Senate seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in a racketeering scheme using the powers of the governor's office.

His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in any scheme involving the Senate seat and to scheming to pressure businessmen for campaign funds.

The former governor appeared unfazed early Thursday. He stepped off an elevator beaming, and approached spectators waiting to get into the courtroom. Raising both arms over his head, he said loudly, "I've said it once and I'll say it again - innocent of all charges." Some spectators laughed, others shook their heads.

As he headed back to court after the lunch break, though, a spectator asked whether it was hard to sit and listen to the hours of recordings. He nodded and said, "Yes, it's painful." He also repeated what he had said previously, that his comments on the tapes are being taken out of context.

On a tape made in December 2008, Mr. Blagojevich is heard saying that naming U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat would yield "tangible political support."

"Specific amounts and everything," Mr. Blagojevich said on the tape. He adds: "There is some of it up front."

Mr. Jackson has not been accused of wrongdoing in the case. But prosecutors say there is evidence that his political supporters spoke about raising a large sum for the then-governor if he would name the congressman to the Senate.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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