- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

CHICAGO | Ten days before the impeachment trial that could cost Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich his office, his team of defense lawyers said Friday they have withdrawn from the proceedings, which two of the attorneys compared to a “lynching.”

Lead attorney Edward M. Genson disassociated himself from any lynching talk but did say the rules of the state Senate trial, the first of its kind in Illinois history, “were extraordinarily unfair” and were aimed at assuring that the governor would be convicted.

“It’s a foregone conclusion,” Mr. Genson told the Associated Press. He said he decided “a few days ago” not to take part in the proceedings, but since then has been directed by Mr. Blagojevich not to attend.

“I have been instructed not to participate in the impeachment trial,” he said.

He said he would still defend Mr. Blagojevich on federal charges of fraud and bribery.

Mr. Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 and charged with planning to trade or sell the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama’s election. He was also charged with illegally using his powers to squeeze campaign contributors for money and planning to pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers who wanted him impeached.

Attorney Sam Adam and his son, Samuel E. Adam, told the Tribune that they have not had enough time to get ready for the Senate trial and don’t have subpoena power to call witnesses.

“We cannot and will not degrade our client, ourselves, our oaths and our profession, as well as the office of the governor, by participating in a Potemkin-like lynching proceeding, thus making it appear that the governor is represented by competent counsel when in fact he is not,” they said in a statement to the newspaper.

It appeared Mr. Blagojevich’s legal advisers were divided, though, with Mr. Genson saying that the strongly worded statement given to the Tribune was not from him.

Mr. Genson - a legendary Chicago defense attorney whose clients have included R&B; star R. Kelly and media mogul Conrad Black - represented Mr. Blagojevich during impeachment hearings in the Illinois House. He argued that there was no evidence the governor committed a crime and called the impeachment panel’s proceedings unfair and perhaps illegal.

House members voted 114-1 last week to impeach Mr. Blagojevich, who now faces a trial in the Senate beginning Jan. 26.

The Senate is not considering any delay in the trial because of the attorney shake-up, said Cindy Davidsmeyer, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, Chicago Democrat.

Mr. Genson said he didn’t know whether Mr. Blagojevich was talking with other lawyers about representing him at the Senate trial.

cAssociated Press writers Deanna Bellandi in Chicago and Andrea Zelinski in Springfield contributed to this story.

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