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Judge calls effort to get new trial for Blagojevich ‘harebrained'

Connie Wilson, jury forewoman in the second Blagojevich trial, outside her Naperville home Tuesday, June 28, 2011. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

U.S. District Judge James Zagel took a mere three minutes Monday morning to dismiss a motion by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys as “harebrained.”

Blagojevich’s attorneys sought a new trial based on a report that the jury forewoman had displayed a juror questionnaire in a talk she gave to students about the trial. Those questionnaires are not supposed to be taken from court, Blagojevich’s attorney said.

But jury forewoman Connie Wilson said Monday it was a blank questionnaire she cleared with court officials before she gave her talk.

“Before I was preparing to go out to the school, I called the clerk at the federal jury office and asked what materials they had available if teaching a class on civic duty,” Wilson said.

Even before Wilson’s revelation Monday afternoon, Zagel scolded Blagojevich attorney Lauren Kaeseberg for filing the motion at all.

“The motion was prepared without any adequate thought,” Zagel said. “You should seek outside counsel . . . and send a letter of apology to the juror.”

Zagel said he could hold Kaeseberg in contempt of court but was cutting her slack because she is only four years out of law school.

“By the absence of precedent, I assume you couldn’t find precedent,” Zagel said, calling the filing “beyond my imagination.”

Two weeks ago, Zagel sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison on charges of trying to use his office to enrich himself.

Kaeseberg and Blagojevich’s other lawyers defended themselves after the hearing. “I stand by the motion – the motion was absolutely filed in good faith,” Kaeseberg said. “Frankly, I’m disappointed because I know we filed this motion in good faith. . . . I’m actually proud of the motion.”

Kaeseberg has been practicing criminal law since she was sworn in as a lawyer in 2008, she said. As a defense lawyer, she would be negligent if she found out a juror may have committed a rule violation and she did not investigate.