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Inherit The Windbag: Day 4, Opening Statements

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jun 9, 2010 2:00PM

Yesterday is when it all really got underway in the Blagojevich trial. After three days of jury selection, the final jury and its alternates were seated and the opening statements were delivered, the three-ring circus officially open. The prosecution opened the trial as Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton focused on the infamous "golden" U.S. Senate seat that the feds allege Blago planned to sell. Said Hamilton, "When he needed to ask, 'who should represent the people of Illinois?' Defendant (Rod) Blagojevich asked 'what about me?'" It was against this back-drop that Hamilton also told the jury something that hadn't previously been known: Blago was in debt to the tune of $200,000. She said, “He corrupted the office of the governor of the state of Illinois for his own personal benefit. When you hear him say this senate seat is golden and he’s not giving it up for nothing, you are going to know, that’s how he viewed his power.” Following Hamilton, in his opening statement for the ex-gov's brother Robert, Michael Ettinger did his best to separate the two brothers, stressing that, "They weren't close," and "He's not a politician. He's a businessmen." He also stressed, "The evidence will show that Robert followed the rules."

But then it was time for the main event. If Hamilton and Ettinger were White Snake and Cinderella, Sam Adam, Jr. was Bon Jovi. And Adam didn't disappoint with his opening statement.

The Tribune's Bob Secter called it, "an oration worthy of a Chatauqua revival." And the Sun-Times described Adam as, "at times pacing the courtroom and shouting at the top of his lungs." But what about what he said? Adam came out swinging, pointing to Rod's financial problems as proof he did no wrong: “He’s broke. The biggest politician that is corrupt in America and he’s broke. He didn’t take a dime.” Adam painted Blago as a victim of those closest to him, calling Tony Rezko, "the Bernie Madoff of Chicago" and exclaiming, “[Rod] was fooled. Absolutely fooled." And then there was the Children's Memorial hospital shakedown.

The charges involving the alleged shakedown of Children’s Memorial Hospital were an outgrowth of Blagojevich’s diehard passion for the Chicago Cubs, Adam claimed.

“The man was cheating on Patti,” Adam said. “One hundred sixty-two days a year, that man was cheating her. He loved the Cubs like nobody’s business. That was his mistress…”

Not that these were the only choice quotes from Adam. The Chicago News Coop has an entire list of Adam's quotable, bombastic opening statement, including:

  • [on Stuart Levine] - “In the history of ever, this is the most corrupt man ever.”
  • [on federal prosecutors] - “The same people chasing Bin Laden are chasing him.”
  • [on Rod's first election] - “In a state that is basically Irish, a Serbian won.”

The difference between the prosecution's presentation and Adam's bombast was, as the CNC put it, "Theatrics versus Tutorials." Our pal Eric Zorn said of the contrasting opening statements: "In the battle between the teacher -- Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton -- and the preacher -- the thunderous, histrionic Adam Jr., Rod's attorney-- the preacher came out way ahead." Zorn added a caveat, though, "I've been in enough courtrooms to know that the score at the end of day one is no indication how the trial is going to turn out."

And so it goes. With these opening statements behind us, the trial continues today with the first witnesses expected to be FBI agent Daniel Cain and then Alonzo “Lon” Monk, a former Blago chief of staff and campaign head. Monk cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his guilty plea.