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Inherit The Windbag: Sparing The Rod

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jul 21, 2010 2:20PM

It just might be, well ahead of schedule. As was reported yesterday, it appears as if Blago's defense team will rest its case today without calling a single witness, most importantly Blago himself. Yes, after a year and a half of exclaiming that the truth would come out, that he would be vindicated, our ex-gov won't even get his crack at telling his side of the story on the witness stand. Which is probably just as well because it won't give prosecutors a chance to put him through the wringer. After the decision was announced following the testimony of co-defendant (and brother) Robert Blagojevich, Judge Zagel held a sidebar conference in which he advised Blago's attorneys to sleep on the decision and come back this morning at 9:30. So why the change of heart, literally, overnight on Monday? There seem to be three reasons at play, outlined best here by the Tribune:

Blagojevich's lawyers believed prosecutors had held back part of their case against the former governor to use against him in what promised to be a bruising cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar, who glared toward the defense table after learning of the decision.

The attorneys also were operating under the belief that if Blagojevich testified, convicted fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who has cooperated with the government, was likely to be called as a powerful rebuttal witness by prosecutors. Sources have said Rezko, who allegedly helped Blagojevich scheme to make money by leveraging the powers of his office, had not been prepared by prosecutors to testify but was on notice that he could very likely be called to the stand on short order.

Blagojevich's lawyers also believed that the former governor's older brother, Robert, a well-spoken businessman and retired Army officer who testified for two days on his own behalf this week, made for an effective family spokesman for the defense.

The father-son team of Sam Adam Jr. and Sr. claimed to be divided on the issue, with Sr. wanting to keep Blago quiet and Jr. wanting him to testify. But Sheldon Sorosky told the Sun-Times Natasha Korecki, "There's absolutely no dissension among the lawyers." We'll find out shortly.

Of course, there was other action in the courtroom, mainly the continuation of Rober Blagojevich's cross-examination.

Robert began the day on the defensive, admitting that, "sometimes (government and fund-raising) bleed over" as prosecutors pressed him on favors done for big donors to Rod's campaign fund. He also further denied the alleged shakedown of Children's Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon, insisting, “I was not asking him personally to contribute, I asked him to host a fundraiser if he wanted to." As the exchange between Robert and prosecutor Christopher Niewoehner grew testy, Robert defended his brother's desires for a cabinet position as well as the political wrangling that was going on.

Prosecutors turned their cross-examination of Robert to grilling him over a December 4, 2008 phone call with Rod that focused on the efforts of Raghu Nayak to raise money on behalf of Jesse Jackson, Jr. to help Jesse get the then-vacant U.S. Senate seat. Robert claimed he didn't accept the $6 million offer because Nayak and others who were helping were, "awkward and clumsy and naive."

Before finishing on the stand, Robert testified to a sweep of the Blagojevich campaign office for bugs by state troopers in early December 2008 after the Tribune broke the story of the FBI using a wire with John Wyma to record Blago. The officers, according to Robert, swept the office the day before Blago's arrest.

And now we wait to see if Robert's testimony is the only Blago defense we'll hear. Nothing in this surreal story and trial really surprises us anymore.