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Archive for Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blagojevich may remain silent at trial

July 21, 2010

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— Since the day federal agents arrested Rod Blagojevich, the ousted Illinois governor hasn’t missed a chance to proclaim his innocence. On talk shows. On stage with the comedians of “Second City.” To reporters while jogging down a snow-covered street — even while chatting with Donald Trump on reality television.

The only audience that matters is the jury hearing allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama’s old seat in the Senate. It’s also the one audience he might never address.

Blagojevich’s attorneys unexpectedly said Tuesday they could rest the defense without calling a single witness — including the former governor — which would leave jurors to hear nothing from him but his voice on profanity-laced wiretap recordings made by the FBI.

Should Blagojevich not testify in his own defense, he would fail to make good on his confident proclamation at the start of the trial that the jury and public alike would hear “all the things I’ve been dying to tell you for the last year and a half.”

For months following his early morning arrest, Blagojevich told reporters “I can’t wait” to take the witness stand. He left the courthouse Tuesday in silence, leaving his attorneys to explain that their loquacious client would take the night to decide for certain whether he would.

Blagojevich’s attorneys said they did not believe the government had proven its case. They disagreed on whether he should testify.

“My position is that he should not go on the stand because I don’t think that the government has proven their case,” said the defense team’s senior member, Sam Adam Sr.

His son, Sam Adam Jr., told reporters that he would prefer to see Blagojevich testify, saying the former governor is “a wonderful speaker” who is “anything but shy about saying what his state of mind was.”

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to trade an appointment to the Senate seat for a Cabinet post in Obama’s administration, an ambassadorship, a high-paying job or a massive campaign donation. He also has pleaded not guilty to scheming to launch a racketeering operation in the governor’s office.

His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, a Nashville, Tenn., real estate entrepreneur, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged plan to sell the Senate seat and playing a role in a plot to squeeze businessmen illegally for campaign contributions.

On the stand for a second day Tuesday, Robert Blagojevich withstood a withering cross-examination in which he played cat-and-mouse with Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner while discussing his ties to a businessman who he says offered $6 million if the governor would appoint U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat.

Robert Blagojevich had said Monday that he viewed that offer as “outrageous — a joke.”

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