Blagojevich prosecutor to resume closing arguments
CHICAGO (AP) — Prosecutors resume their closing arguments Thursday at the corruption retrial of Rod Blagojevich, wrapping up their case against the ousted Illinois governor after beginning the summary by telling jurors he lied to their faces from the witness stand.
Government attorney Carrie Hamilton began addressing the panel Wednesday, and used less than half of the four hours the judge has allotted to each side for closing arguments.
"The defendant lied to you under oath in this courtroom," she said, countering Blagojevich's own first words to jurors that he was there "to tell you the truth."
She also referred back to oaths that Blagojevich took as governor that he would fulfill his duties honestly and according to the law.
"What you have learned in court at this trial is that time and time again, the defendant violated that oath," Hamilton said. "He used his powers as governor to try to get things for him."
Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 counts, including attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery. The most serious allegation is that he sought to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. He's also accused of trying to shake down executives by threatening state decisions that would hurt their businesses.
His attorneys will present their closings after prosecutors are done. Jurors could start deliberating as soon as Thursday.
Hamilton told jurors that when they deliberate they should listen carefully to FBI wiretap recordings that underpinned much of the government's three-week case.
"It will make the defendant's guilt crystal clear," she said. "Listen to his tone. ... He is serious, he wants this. ... He knows exactly what he is doing and he wants it." She added, "This is not just politics, this is a politician engaging in criminal conduct."
Hamilton sought to connect the dots for the jury, linking evidence to the charges, one by one. Her job was made easier by the government's sharply streamlined case. Jurors at the first trial last year said the prosecution's case was too scattershot and too hard to follow.
In the retrial, the prosecution called about 15 witnesses — around half the number as in the first trial. Prosecutors asked them fewer questions and rarely strayed onto topics not directly related to the charges such as Blagojevich's lavish shopping or his lax, sometimes odd working habits.
Blagojevich's first trial ended with a hung jury, with the panel agreeing on a single count — that he lied to the FBI about how involved he was in fundraising as governor. Before the initial trial, Blagojevich repeatedly insisted he would testify, but he never did. His lawyers rested without calling a single witness.
This time, the impeached governor was the star witness of the three-week defense presentation. Under a grueling cross-examination, Blagojevich occasionally became flustered, but repeatedly denied trying to sell or trade the Senate seat or attempting to shake down executives.
Blagojevich also argued that his talk captured on FBI wiretaps was merely brainstorming, and that he never took the schemes seriously or decided to carry them out. And though the judge barred such arguments, Blagojevich claimed he'd believed his conversations were legal and part of common political discourse.