Blagojevich attorney: Government didn't prove case

CHICAGO (AP) - July 27, 2010

Sam Adam Jr. told jurors in his closing argument that's why he did not call Blagojevich to testify, as he'd promised at the beginning of the trial. He called the governor's silence the "elephant in the room."

"I thought he'd sit right up here," Adam said, shouting and pointing at the empty witness chair. "I promised he'd testify. We were wrong. Blame me."

"I had no idea that in two and a half months of trial that they'd prove nothing," he told jurors.

Adam, known for his theatrical style, dismissed prosecution claims that Blagojevich tried to sell or trade the nomination to Barack Obama's former Senate seat for a Cabinet job, saying, "That man wasn't selling any seat." He said jurors knew that for themselves after listening to hours of FBI wiretap tapes played by prosecutors during the evidence phase of the trial.

"You heard the tapes and you heard Rod on the tapes," he said. "You can infer what was in Rod's mind on the tapes. You can infer from those tapes whether he's trying to extort the president of the United States. We heard tape after tape of just talking. ... If you put Joan and Melissa rivers in a room you wouldn't hear that much talk. That's how he is."

Adam was warned by the judge that he would be stopped if he tells jurors about witnesses the prosecution did not call. Judge James Zagel says it's improper for the defense to imply that those people - including convicted political fixer Tony Rezko - would have helped Blagojevich's case.

Adam said Monday he was willing to go to jail rather than follow the order; Zagel says he doesn't expect that to happen.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts, including trying to sell or trade an appointment to Obama's vacated Senate seat for a Cabinet post, private job or campaign cash.

His brother, Nashville, Tenn. businessman Robert Blagojevich, 54, has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in that alleged scheme.

In the prosecution's closing argument Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner methodically laid out the government's allegations of how Blagojevich tried to "shake down" everyone from a racetrack owner to a children's hospital executive to Obama.

He opened his remarks by repeating the most famous phrase of the seven-week trial, a quote that will be forever associated with Blagojevich.

"I've got this thing and it's (expletive) golden," he recalled Blagojevich saying on one of dozens of phone calls secretly recorded by the FBI. "I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing."

But in a pre-emptive shot at the expected arguments from Blagojevich's defense, Niewoehner also told jurors that that Blagojevich need not have made money or gotten a high-profile job in order for his alleged schemes to be illegal.

"You don't have to be a successful criminal to be a criminal," he said.

Robert Blagojevich's attorney, Michael Ettinger, said in his closing argument that jurors never heard any testimony linking his client's fundraising to demands for anything in exchange.

"Raising campaign funds is not illegal. It is not against the law," he said.

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