- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) — Lawyers for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich rested their case Wednesday at his corruption retrial after calling witnesses that included a former congressman to follow Mr. Blagojevich himself.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel said both the prosecution and the defense will have four hours to deliver their closing arguments. Defense lawyers for the ousted governor had asked for an hour and a half; prosecutors said they would need four hours.

Prosecutors said Wednesday they have one more rebuttal witness, and defense lawyers said they haven’t decided whether they’ll call more witnesses.

Prosecutors could start delivering their closing arguments as early as Wednesday afternoon, followed by the defense. Jurors could start deliberating as soon as Thursday afternoon, depending on the length of closing arguments.

Blagojevich was the star witness in the defense’s three-week presentation, wrapping up his testimony a day earlier and fulfilling a promise he made before his first trial that he would testify.

Under a grueling cross-examination, Blagojevich occasionally became flustered, but he repeatedly denied trying to sell or trade President Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat or attempting to shake down executives for campaign cash.

Defense lawyers earlier in the trial called Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. On Wednesday they added former Rep. Bill Lipinski, Illinois Democrat; a former state budget office employee; and an FBI agent.

The prosecution called several rebuttal witnesses once the defense rested, including two Canadian building executives and two FBI agents.

In his testimony, Blagojevich argued that his talk captured on FBI wiretaps was merely brainstorming and that he never took the schemes seriously or decided to carry them out. And though the judge barred such arguments, Blagojevich claimed he had believed his conversations were legal and part of common political discourse.

Defense lawyers also have filed several motions claiming the government is trying to thwart them, including by repeatedly objecting to their questions during cross-examination.

In their own three-week case, prosecutors called 15 witnesses and played FBI wiretap recordings of Blagojevich. It was a much shorter, streamlined case than they presented last year.

Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 counts, including attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery. The most serious allegation is that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat in exchange for a high-paying job or campaign cash. He’s also accused to trying to shake down executives by threatening state decisions that would hurt their businesses.

His first trial last year ended with a hung jury, the panel agreeing on a single count — that Blagojevich lied to the FBI about how involved he was in fundraising as governor.

Before the initial trial, Blagojevich repeatedly insisted he would speak directly to jurors, but he never did. His lawyers rested without calling a single witness.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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