CHICAGO — Rod Blagojevich is insecure, he talks a lot and he's a bad judge of character — but he is not a criminal, the ousted Illinois governor's defense attorney told jurors at his corruption trial Tuesday during a theatrical closing argument.
Sam Adam Jr. told jurors that he did not call Blagojevich to testify, as he had promised when the trial started, because the government did not prove its case.
"I thought he'd sit right up here," Adam shouted, walking over to the witness stand and pointing at the empty chair. "I promised he'd testify. We were wrong. Blame me.
"I had no idea that in 21/2 months of trial that they'd prove nothing. … They want you, you and you to convict him" with no evidence, he yelled, pointing to individual jurors.
In its rebuttal, the prosecution said Blagojevich is not the bumbling, naive victim portrayed by defense attorneys. Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar told jurors Blagojevich is a smart man and experienced politician who knows better than to explicitly ask for money or other favors.
But he said Blagojevich "knows how to communicate" his intent.
Schar said the people who testified understood that Blagojevich was threatening funding to their various projects if they did not pony up campaign contributions.
"It was obvious," he said. "Somehow Mr. Adam would say to you the master communicator here didn't get it."
Schar told jurors Blagojevich had more legal training than most of his alleged co-conspirators. "But somehow he is the accidentally corrupt governor," he said, his voice rising slightly. "Come on, ladies and gentlemen. Come on!"
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts, including trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat for a Cabinet post, private job or campaign cash. His brother, Nashville businessman Robert Blagojevich, 54, has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in that alleged scheme.