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The Daily Need

Blagojevich chokes up as he turns into human balloon

(’s Mashed is a new feature wherein Need to Know brings you two stories simultaneously, sparing you the extra time required to read them individually. Since most of us are reading multiple stories at the same time anyway, we believe this could be a big step forward in news consumption and may make news more accessible to a younger demographic. If, in the course of mashing, we happen to stumble across some universal truths, ’s even better.)

Flickr/amboo who? and AP/Paul Beaty

WELLINGTON, Ill. — “I used to be your governor, and I’m here today to tell you the truth,” former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois said in his federal corruption retrial Thursday.

In testimony that will continue Friday, Mr. Blagojevich denied having done anything illegal, gave his own versions of events that prosecutors have said were attempts to solicit bribes, and fell onto the fitting of a compressed air hose that pierced his buttock and forced air into his body at 100 pounds a square inch.

Choking up at times, Mr. Blagojevich was standing on his truck’s foot plate Saturday when he slipped and fell, breaking a compressed air hose off an air reservoir that powered the truck’s brakes.

Mr. Blagojevich — who did not take the stand last summer in his previous trial, which resulted in a hung jury on all but one count — fell hard onto the brass fitting, which pierced his left buttock and started pumping air into his body.

On the stand, Mr. Blagojevich recalled working as a shoeshine boy at age 9; having had his professional baseball and basketball hopes dashed; delivering pizzas and wearing polyester disco clothes while wealthier Northwestern University students wore Izod; and said his skin felt “like a pork roast” — crackling on the outside but soft underneath.

In particular, he denied having threatened to withhold a $2 million state grant for a school in the Congressional district represented at the time by Rahm Emanuel unless Mr. Emanuel heard his screams and ran to him, quickly releasing a safety valve to stop the air flow.

“He’s a successful, crafty political figure who’s fighting for his —” Mr. Blagojevich said of Mr. Emanuel, before being cut off by an objection from prosecutors. “I had no choice but just to lay there, blowing up like a balloon.”

Sources: The New York Times and the Associated Press