Court: Unplayed Blagojevich tapes to stay sealed

By By The Associated Press

CHICAGO — An appellate court in Chicago ruled Tuesday that transcripts of FBI wiretaps not played at Rod Blagojevich's

corruption trials would be part of the appellate record but would remain sealed, at least for now.

The decisions by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court

of Appeals came as it continued to mull its decision on the imprisoned

former

Illinois governor's 100-page appeal, which was filed last July and

asks the three-judge appellate panel to toss his multiple

convictions.

The 57-year-old Chicago Democrat is in a Colorado prison serving a 14-year sentence, including for seeking to exchange an

appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat for campaign cash or a job.

The wiretaps in question are among those

U.S. District Judge James Zagel barred the defense from playing to

jurors. The appeal

argues Blagojevich engaged in legal political horse-trading

regarding the seat and that FBI recordings supported that contention.

The same order also confirmed the court

would include the tapes not played as a part of the appellate record

judges can go

through. They were submitted late by defense attorneys after

realizing they weren't in an initial batch of documents, raising

questions about whether the panel would put them in the record.

Appellate courts typically unseal documents

shortly after they are submitted along with an appeal. But prosecutors

later asked

that the transcripts not entered into evidence stay under seal,

citing the privacy of some subjects on the wiretaps and other

concerns.

Blagojevich's attorneys wanted them promptly opened, arguing transparency was "an important safeguard" against violations

of a defendant's rights.

While it agreed to the government's request to keep the records sealed, the brief appellate order does say that if the court

eventually concurs the trial judge erred by not admitting them, they will then be unsealed.

One of Blagojevich's lawyers, Sheldon Sorosky, said the defense asked for the transcripts to be unsealed on principle. But

he said the decision not to do open them shouldn't affect the court's deliberations on the appeal itself.

"We asked because it has always been Gov. Blagojevich's position that all the tapes should be unsealed," he said.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, Randall Samborn, declined comment.