Ousted Illinois governor won't testify in his corruption trial


Blagojevich had loudly insisted for months on television, radio and even to bystanders outside the courthouse that he would speak directly to jurors. Allegations against him include charges that he sought to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

But his attorneys dropped a bombshell Tuesday when they said they could rest their case without calling a single witness -- including Blagojevich. They did that Wednesday morning. They say no defense is needed because the prosecution did not prove its case.

It is rare for defendants in federal trials to testify in their own defense, and experts have said putting Blagojevich on the stand could be risky.

On FBI wiretap recordings prosecutors played for jurors, an often profane Rod Blagojevich was heard speculating on what he could get in exchange for Obama's former Senate seat -- guaranteeing a grueling cross-examination.

Blagojevich's lawyers told Judge James B. Zagel on Tuesday that they had decided not to call any witnesses, but the judge told them to take the night to sleep on it, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. That person would speak only on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to divulge the information.

The former governor, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to trade an appointment to the Senate seat for a Cabinet post in Obama's administration, an ambassadorship, a high-paying job or a massive campaign donation. He also has pleaded not guilty to scheming to launch a racketeering operation in the governor's office.

His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, a Nashville, Tenn., real estate entrepreneur, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged plan to sell the Senate seat and playing a role in a plot to squeeze businessmen illegally for campaign contributions.

Asked Tuesday what about the prosecution's five-week presentation made Blagojevich's attorneys rethink putting their client on the stand, lawyer Sam Adam Jr. said: "Their entire case." Adam said calling Blagojevich might appear to lend credence to the charges. But not calling him would seem to contradict the fiery attorney's pledge to jurors in his opening statement last month.

"I'm telling you now, he's going testify," Adam thundered, pacing the floor in front of the jury and then poking fun at himself. "He's not gonna let some chubby, four-eyed lawyer do his talking for him." Pointing at the witness box, he added dramatically, "he's going to get up there and tell you exactly what was going on."

As recently as Monday, the former governor went out of his way to say he would testify. As he approached spectators outside the courtroom, he said loudly, "Show of hands: Anyone here planning on testifying?" He then thrust his own hand high in the air, smiled and walked into court.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.