Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blagojevich Doesn’t Testify, Closing Set Monday

By Bill McMorris, Illinois Statehouse News
“At this time the defendant Rod Blagojevich rests.” Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky’s brief words and calm tone Wednesday brought an end to the 19-month saga the former Illinois governor has faced after his December 2008 arrest on federal corruption charges.

It was a move that shocked trial observers and the prosecution when the defense introduced the idea Tuesday. The jury, which heard it for the first time on Wednesday, looked equally puzzled, some turning to each other in whispers, as Sorosky took his seat. Blagojevich’s defense team had told the 18 jurors Blagojevich would be taking the stand in his own defense.

“It is my decision under advice of counsel (not to testify),” Blagojevich told federal Judge James Zagel after the jury was dismissed. Blagojevich has been very vocal about his innocence, and long promised to take the stand. He soon found his voice again outside the courtroom.

“In the tapes that the government played, they proved that I did nothing wrong,” Blagojevich said. “The government proved my case, proved I was innocent–there was nothing further for me to add.” Blagojevich said the tapes were a part of his First Amendment rights to free speech and constituted nothing more than talk and in some cases, “ideas (that) were stupid.”

The defense’s assertion that Blagojevich’s lack of action and absence of enriched bank accounts may not fly in Zagel’s court. The judge reminded the defense team on Wednesday afternoon that conspiracy is a “crime of words.”

The prosecution spent six weeks trying to use those words to convince the jury that the former governor was a money-crazed politician whose corruption knew no bounds. The government produced shopping carts of evidence, including FBI wiretaps which showed Blagojevich allegedly attempting to shake down businessmen, educators and other politicians for campaign contributions and fund-raisers. The tapes were narrated by testimony of some of the ex-governor’s closest friends, advisers and alleged co-conspirators.

The defense, which complained that the prosecution went through its case too quickly, rested after only two days of testimony from the governor’s elder brother and former fund-raiser Robert and his wife, Julie. Not only did the former governor refuse to testify, but his defense team called no witnesses.

Closing arguments are expected Monday, more than two months earlier than expected.

You can read Bill's full report at:

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