Blagojevich Offers Another Lesson in Surrealism

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks to members of the media at the Federal Court building, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, in Chicago after his defense rested without calling any witnesses. Blagojevich is accused of scheming to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain. At right is his wife Patti. AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks to members of the media at the Federal Court building, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, in Chicago after his defense rested without calling any witnesses. Blagojevich is accused of scheming to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain. At right is his wife Patti.
AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato
In yet another surreal Rod Blagojevich moment, the former governor chatted-up the crowd Wednesday outside a Chicago courthouse. He hugged supporters, then told a federal judge he will not appear before the most important audience of all -- the only one that matters -- the jury in his bribery and corruption trial.

Shortly after noon, he faced a throng of reporters and explained his decision, using words no one ever expected to hear him say... that perhaps the biggest lesson he's learned through this experience, is that he talks too much.

It was, after all, his own words that got him into trouble in the first place. Months worth of wiretapped conversations U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said would prove Blagojevich guilty of a political crime spree that would make Abraham Lincoln roll over in his grave. The tough prosecutor said the two term governor was so corrupt he was even willing to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder.

But instead of keeping a low profile, after his arrest, even after he was impeached, Blagojevich held his mop haired head high and used every conceivable opportunity to repeat the words that became his mantra, he would take the stand, he would tell his story, he would face the jury and prove his innocence.

The prosecution presented a month-long case, which included the tapes of the governor uttering the now infamous phrase: "This thing is bleeping golden, and I'm not just giving it away," in reference to his power to appoint the next U.S. Senator. His voice is heard on government tapes as he speculates about whether he can turn that power into a future job, perhaps a cabinet post position. In a peevish tone he refers to the new president, Barack Obama, as a bleeping demigod.

When the government rested its case more quickly than expected, many in the windy city wondered if the prosecution had done enough, in other words, where was the smoking gun? There was talk of tit-for-tat, but no evidence of money or favors changing hands. Suddenly the defense had a decision to make; whether to put on a case, or take their chances.

Attorneys Sam Adam Sr. and his son Sam Adam Jr. are known for their unorthodox tactics, and this one may go down as the most unorthodox of all.

Despite telling the jury during opening arguments they would hear from the defendant, despite months of Blagojevich promising to testify, Team Blago did a 180 and made the call not to allow Rod Blagojevich to take the stand.

"The law is clear," said Sam Adam the Elder, "the burden of proof is on the government. They did not meet their burden of proof and I think the jury will say that."

The father and son team did acknowledge Blagojevich would have been a troublesome witness; a wildcard known to run his mouth, a natural born politician who can't quit campaigning. And they eventually managed to convince their client that there's something to that old adage, discretion is the better part of valor.

There is a great deal of speculation that perhaps the U.S. Attorney didn't reveal all his cards, hoping to trip Blagojevich up on cross examination -- which makes the Adams' decision not to put their client on the stand either brilliant, or a gross miscalculation.

It's up to the jury to decide which. Closing arguments are set for Monday.

  • Cynthia Bowers

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