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Blagojevich decides against testifying
CHICAGO | Rod R. Blagojevich stood up in court Wednesday and told the judge the opposite of what he has been saying for months. He now says that he will not testify in his own defense to charges that include trying to sell an appointment to President Obama’s old Senate seat.
The ousted Illinois governor, who had loudly insisted on television, radio and even to bystanders outside the courthouse that he would speak directly to jurors, stood in court with his hands folded in front of him, saying calmly and confidently that it was his choice not to testify.
“Is it your decision not to testify?” Judge James B. Zagel asked.
“It is my decision,” Mr. Blagojevich responded, nodding slightly.
His attorneys promptly rested his defense. Prosecutors also rested their case against him.
Mr. Blagojevich returned to his seat, smiling. During a recess a few minutes later, he picked up where he began the trial shaking hands with well-wishers in the spectator benches and even signing autographs.
Outside court, Mr. Blagojevich said he believed all along that he would testify and only reluctantly went back on his repeated pledges to do so after his senior lawyer talked him out of it.
“Sam Adam Sr.’s most compelling argument, and I believe the one that swayed me, was that the government in their case proved my innocence, they proved I did nothing illegal and there was nothing further for us to add,” Mr. Blagojevich said.
He said the government also showed “that I never took a corrupt dollar, not a corrupt dime, not a corrupt nickel, not a corrupt penny.”
Mr. Blagojevich also said he has learned lot of lessons perhaps the biggest that he talks too much.
His attorneys said neither they nor Blagojevich need to explain why he won’t testify. Sam Adam Jr. says the judge will make that clear to the jury before closing arguments begin on Monday.
He said Mr. Blagojevich originally intended to testify when the government said it would call more witnesses than it did. He acknowledged there was some chance of harm to the case “but is the greater harm going on the stand and saying, we think they proved you guilty?”
The judge told jurors earlier that the evidence stage of the case had concluded. He also told them that they wouldn’t have to return until Monday.
It is rare and risky for defendants in federal trials to testify in their own defense, and experts have said Mr. Blagojevich would need to abandon his usual cockiness, humble himself, and not allow himself to be goaded.
On FBI wiretap recordings prosecutors played for jurors, an often-profane Rod Blagojevich was heard speculating on what he could get in exchange for Mr. Obama’s former Senate seat guaranteeing a grueling cross-examination.
By Tom Fitton
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