- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) – Three of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys withdrew Friday from representing the governor at his Senate impeachment trial, but his chief defense attorney said he still will defend him on federal criminal charges.

Defense attorney Edward M. Genson said in a telephone interview that the decision came “a few days ago” but he declined to say why, or when he discussed it with Blagojevich.

Attorney Sam Adam and his son, Samuel E. Adam, told the Chicago Tribune they did not have enough time to get ready for the Senate trial and did not have subpoena power to call their own 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 Tribune.

Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal corruption charges that include allegations he schemed to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.

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

House members voted 114-1 last Friday to impeach Blagojevich, who could be removed from office by the Senate after a trial set to begin Jan. 26.

Genson had been slated to defend him at his Senate trial.

“I was and I’m not,” Genson said, declining to say how the decision was made. “We get along fine,” he said of his relationship with the governor.

Blagojevich faces long odds in the trial. The jurors are 59 politicians who have often feuded with him and who ultimately answer to voters, who according to polls strongly disapprove of Blagojevich.

Forget about “reasonable doubt.” Each senator can decide independently what standard of proof to use in reaching a verdict. Senators can also vote to overturn rulings by the judge presiding over the trial.

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

Neither Adam immediately returned phone messages left by The Associated Press. Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero would not comment on Genson’s decision or on who will represent the governor now.

The attorneys’ withdrawal was the latest surprising twist in the story that began with Blagojevich’s arrest on charges that include plotting to sell or trade Obama’s Senate seat.

Blagojevich finally appointed Roland Burris to the seat. There has been no allegation of any wrongdoing on the part of Burris, who was sworn in Thursday.

Federal prosecutors have until April 7 to produce an indictment against Blagojevich and his co-defendant, former chief of staff John Harris.

The criminal complaint against Blagojevich alleges he illegally schemed to use the powers of his office to squeeze potential contributors for campaign money. He is accused of planning to use state financial help in the proposed sale of Wrigley Field as a way to pressure the Tribune into firing editorial writers who had been calling for the governor’s impeachment.

The federal investigation of Blagojevich, his administration and his political advisers has been going on for years, and until several months ago, he had been represented by another law firm. Then it was announced that Genson, a colorful, wisecracking courtroom veteran in Chicago, was taking the case.

Associated Press Writer Deanna Bellandi contributed to this story.


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