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Blagojevich attorneys plan to put on a defense
Question of the Day
CHICAGO | Prosecutors rested their case Thursday at the corruption retrial of impeached Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, whose attorneys quickly said that - unlike last time - they would put on a defense.
Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky said the defense witnesses will be “of some prominence,” though he didn’t name them.
At the last trial, Blagojevich’s attorneys rested without calling any witnesses. Calling some this time would open them up to difficult cross-examinations.
Government attorneys wrapped up after presenting evidence for three weeks and calling their last few witnesses earlier in the day.
Their last exhibit was a video of Blagojevich - hand raised, hand on a Bible - taking his oath of office, vowing “that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of governor to the best of my ability.”
Prosecutors presented a drastically streamlined case after criticism that their six-week case last year was overly complicated. Jurors in the first trial could agree on only one count, convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.
Blagojevich, 54, denies any wrongdoing. He faces 20 counts this time, including that he tried to sell or trade President Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash or a high-profile job.
Earlier Thursday, the prosecution’s last new witness was a former deputy governor under Blagojevich who told jurors his boss had planned to hold up a $2 million grant to a school in then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel’s district until Mr. Emanuel’s Hollywood-agent brother held a fundraiser for the governor.
Bradley Tusk, who is not accused of wrongdoing, was a formidable final witness in part because he was one of the few close aides to Blagojevich who expressed deep misgivings about the alleged shakedown at the time.
Mr. Tusk was aghast, he said, when Blagojevich called him in 2006 to tell him to pass the message on to Mr. Emanuel that the school wouldn’t get the grant money until his brother raised campaign cash.
“I got off the phone as quickly as I could,” Mr. Tusk testified, adding he forwarded the message.
With the final witnesses, the defense stayed with a strategy that began with the first: Attempting to couch arguments in the form of cross-examination questions.
Raising his voice at Mr. Tusk, defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky broached a favorite defense theme at the trial - that Blagojevich may have merely been shooting off at the mouth and was never serious about his directive to call Mr. Emanuel.
“Did you know the governor would sometimes say explosive things, rash things, and not really mean them?” he said.
As they have done hundreds of times during the retrial, the prosecution again stood to object. Judge James Zagel agreed and quickly admonished Mr. Sorosky.
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