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Judge: Blago’s request to play recordings ‘wrongful’

Rod Blagojevich enters car after attending his corruptiretrial Dirksen Federal Building Thursday June 2 2011 Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Rod Blagojevich enters a car after attending his corruption retrial at the Dirksen Federal Building Thursday, June 2, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 30, 2011 8:08AM

A federal judge on Monday denied Rod Blagojevich’s request to play up to 180 previously unaired recordings at his sentencing hearing next week in a strongly-worded order that rips the defense for the last-minute bid.

“The filing of this particular motion at this late date is simply wrongful,” U.S. District Judge James Zagel wrote. “What this motion requests is my blind approval of the use of whatever excerpts it decides are relevant to ‘lack of ill intent’ and admissible under the loosened standards of hearsay at sentencing. That request is denied.”

Zagel said the former governor’s Thanksgiving Day filing asking to play parts of 180 different, previously unplayed tapes was inappropriate, given that the defense has had the information for so long.

“I have effectively been presented with a motion on which I cannot make an informed ruling,” Zagel wrote.

Blagojevich’s lawyers had said they weren’t certain how many of the conversations they would play. Rahm Emanuel was on the phone line for two of the conversations requested and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on the line for another.

However, Zagel on Monday did grant the defense request to be heard on a separate matter, involving what Blagojevich’s lawyers call “new information” regarding government witness John Wyma. Zagel set a Friday hearing to discuss the issue.

Defense lawyers say they now question whether Wyma cooperated in exchange for a government promise to not pursue an investigation into him. Wyma’s lawyer denied the charge, saying the former top Blagojevich aide gave information to the feds without receiving any promises.

“The allegation that John Wyma became an informant in return for not being investigated is just false,” his lawyer, Zach Fardon said.

Prosecutors have said that the information regarding Wyma, which was provided by Tony Rezko, was unsubstantiated.

Prosecutors earlier Monday urged that Zagel deny Blagojevich’s request to play the previously unreleased tapes in part because prosecutors contend the ex-governor was trying to dispute an already resolved question: that he’s guilty.

“To the extent the defendant intends to use the sentencing hearing to attempt to continue [to] prove his innocence of the charges that the jury found him guilty [of], the defendant’s use of the calls is inappropriate because (a) the calls do not support his innocence and (b) the issue of guilt has already been resolved,” prosecutors wrote.

Blagojevich is scheduled to be sentenced before Zagel Dec. 6.

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