Closing Arguments Wrap up Blagojevich Trial; Jury to Begin Delib - FOX 32 News Chicago

Closing Arguments Wrap up Blagojevich Trial; Jury to Begin Deliberations


The fate of former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich was in the hands of jurors Thursday afternoon after attorneys for both sides presented closing arguments.

Complete Rod Blagojevich Trial Coverage >>

Key Points:

  • During their closing arguments, prosecutors portrayed Blagojevich as a desperate man who violated the public trust for his own personal gain. If the jurors listen to all the tapes carefully, the prosecutor said, they will find Blagojevich is a “sophisticated and desperate” man.
  • Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton emphasized that Blagojevich's alleged attempt to sell a U.S. senate seat was illegal, even if the deal was never completed. She said it’s not just politics, but “criminal conduct.” Hamilton compared Blagojevich’s actions to a police officer offering to tear up a traffic ticket for a payment, meaning it’s a crime even if it’s just an idea the officer throws out.
  • Hamilton also went through the charges in the case count by count, pointing out which recorded conversations apply to which counts.
  • The defense filed a motion for a mistrial Thursday morning, combining several complaints they made in smaller motions throughout the trial. The motion responds to an indication from the judge that the numerous motions were becoming disruptive. In one part, the motion argues the judge drove Blagojevich to take the stand, implying that he would be able to argue that he thought is actions were legal, which he wasn’t, and implying the defense could play several more tapes, which they weren’t.
  • The prosecution also filed a motion Thursday morning to preclude the defense from making some arguments it claims are improper, including arguing that Blagojevich believed his conduct legal, that he relied in good faith on his counsel, that it was politics as usual, allegations of government misconduct and arguments based on invalid legal theories.
  • The defense returned to the “bupkis” defense in their closings , as in Blagojevich got nothing in any of the charges and all he did was talk. It was a theme defense attorney Aaron Goldstein repeated throughout his opening statements.


UPDATE:  5 :38 p.m. 
Judge Zagel finished reading directions to the jury, and sent them out of the room. Zagel said the jury is expected to go home Thursday night and begin deliberations Friday morning.

Aside from it being late in the day, Zagel said he told jury not to begin deliberating until a few mistakes were corrected in the jury instructions. The errors should be fixed by court on Friday.

Zagel will meet with attorneys at 9 a.m. on Friday to go over the last few remaining motions.


UPDATE:  5 :01 p.m. 
Judge Zagel began reading instructions to the jury. He gave them a recap of the charges (PDF) Blagojevich faces:

  • Counts 3, 5 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 are all related to wire fraud
  • Counts 11, 12, 16 and 19 are attempted extortion
  • Counts 14 and 18 deal with a conspiracy to committ extortion
  • Counts 13 and 17 are solicitation of a bribe
  • Counts 15 and 20 are a conspiracy to solicit a bribe
  • Counts 21 and 22 are attempted extortion.

Blagojevich has pled not guilty to all counts.

The prosecution dropped counts 1, 2 and 4 months before the re-trial began. Blagojevich was convicted of count 24 (lying to the FBI) in his first trial.


UPDATE:  4:48 p.m. 
Schar wrapped his rebuttal argument by telling the jury they are the only ones who can show Blagojevich what’s right and wrong, and that they “can’t abuse the public trust.”

"Your verdict will speak the truth,” he said. “And the truth is he is guilty."


UPDATE:  3:59 p.m. 
Prosecutor Reid Schar began his rebuttal argument saying that Rod Blagojevich did make decisions and took action over and over again -- despite the defense saying that Blagojevich never made any decisions.


UPDATE:  3:45 p.m. 
Goldstein wrapped up his closing argument by telling the jury that the government doesn’t control them. He told them, “Don’t be a rubber stamp… look at what happened and what didn’t happen... if you listen to these calls, you will find he is not guilty.”

Blagojevich’s wife Patti sobbed as Goldstein finished his closing argument.


UPDATE:  3:30 p.m. 
In talking about the Senate seat, Goldstein told the jury to look at Blagojevich’s actions.

In talking about the Senate seat and the 501(c4), Goldstein said: “Please listen to the calls on this matter. The words mean what they say.”

Goldstein argued that the important premise of this case is what is in Blagojevich's mind. “You heard a lot of what was (in his mind) when Blagojevich was on the stand,” he argued.

Blagojevich was not "trying to cross lines" when talking about the 501(c4) and the Senate seat, Goldstein said. He added that Blagojevich just asking out loud.


UPDATE:  2:45  p.m. 
Goldstein told the jury that they got to know Blagojevich when he was on the stand. There's no doubt he cares about healthcare -- as the prosecution called him, he's the "healthcare governor."

“You don’t do things that hurt what you care about,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein told the jury again that they’re not supposed to decide if fundraising is good or bad, but to decide if Blagojevich committed a crime. Blagojevich hasn’t, Goldstein argued.

UPDATE:  1:56 p.m. 
Goldstein started after the jury's lunch break by talking about the Chicago Academy charges and the Tollway shakedown, saying again all Blagojevich did was talk and ask for a donation, as public officials are legally allowed to do.

The jury was not there to decide if the system is good or bad, Goldstein said, only to determine if Blagojevich committed a crime.


UPDATE:  12:19 p.m. 
Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein began closing arguments for the defense immediately after the prosecution sat down, addressing the jury directly and his tone going up and down similar to how Blagojevich’s former attorney Sam Adam Jr. did in his closings at the first trial, including some courtroom theatrics.

Goldstein started by telling the jury it took courage for Blagojevich to testify, and said he did not make one shakedown or demand.  Blagojevich likes to talk "a lot," but that is not a crime, Goldstein said, repeating a theme from his opening statements.  Goldstein argued continually that Blagojevich did not make a decision, thus did not have intent, on any of the charges from the prosecution, and in the end, he got nothing.


UPDATE:  12:15 p.m. 
Hamilton wrapped up her closings by referring to a quote from a phone call about the senate seat in which Blagojevich says, “I mean you guys are telling me I just gotta suck it up for two years and do nothing. Give this mother f***er, his senator. F*** him. For nothing? F*** him.” She said Blagojevich used this same attitude with every person he allegedly shook down, and when he told the Chicago Tribune in April 2006 that George Ryan's conviction that it proved that government was supposed to exist for "the good of the people," that was a lie.


UPDATE:  12:03 p.m. 
Throughout the prosecution's closing, Blagojevich looked serious, at times frowning.  Earlier, he had been joking outside the courtroom.

Hamilton told the jury during her closings that Blagojevich had made up facts after the case in an attempt to confuse them, and they should look only at the facts.

Moving to the Chicago Academy shakedown allegations, Hamilton said Blagojevich used a “never been used before and never been seen since” approval process for the grant money, evidence of his efforts to hold up the grant so Rahm Emanuel's brother would hold a fundraiser for him.

Hamilton noted that Blagojevich has an amazing memory, recalling where people sat in meetings and whether he offered them coffee or tea beforehand, and even reciting calls from two years previous verbatim from memory, but when he thinks details might hurt him, he conveniently forgets them, like how he couldn’t remember if there was one Chicago Academy grant or two.


UPDATE:  11:44 a.m. 
The prosecution detailed the charges on the alleged Children’s Memorial Hospital shakedown, admitting it was the least explicit of the five. Nevertheless, Hamilton said, Children’s CEO Patrick Magoon understood the same thing as Gerald Krozel -- that he was being asked to fundraise before Jan. 1, 2009 in exchange for state action from Blagojevich.

Hamilton said calls from Blagojevich to Harris demanding $15 million for the Chicago Cubs show Blagojevich was unconcerned about the budget and was holding up the pediatric rate increase for other reasons.


UPDATE:  11:23 a.m. 
Hamilton went through the charges count-by-count on the alleged racetrack shakedown and Tollway shakedown, pointing to specific calls and testimony from witnesses that contradict what Blagojevich told the jury.

On the Tollway bill, Hamilton said Blagojevich lied on the stand when he said he never suggested he could do the large Tollway program without legislative approval, but he never counted on construction executives testifying during the prosecution’s rebuttal that he said that very thing. Hamilton said six different witnesses contradict Blagojevich’s testimony, and he had to lie because otherwise, he would have admitted he committed a crime.


UPDATE:  10:50 a.m. 
The prosecution turned its closing to the racetrack shakedown allegations, reminding the jury of phone calls that showed Blagojevich knew there was no "poison pill" language in the bill and delayed signing it anyway.

Hamilton refuted the defense's claim that Lon Monk had an incentive to lie on the stand, saying instead Blagojevich lied in three different ways about the racetrack bill: claiming there as poison pill language, claiming Chris Kelly's pursuit of a pardon was a problem and claiming Blagojevich thought Monk wouldn't cross any lines so he let him handle it.


UPDATE:  10:15 a.m. 
Hamilton resumed delivering the prosecution's closing arguments , wrapping up her explanation of the charges regarding the senate seat. Before moving on to the charges regarding the racetrack bill, Hamilton reminded the jury that all of the Senate charges she went over were happening at the same time as the alleged racetrack, Tollway bill and Children’s Memorial shakedowns and Blagojevich was at the center of all of them.


UPDATE:  9:44 a.m. 
Court was off to a bit of a late start Thursday morning.  Blagojevich and one of the prosecutors just arrived, and one of the juror's train was late as Chicago dealt with heavy rains and flooded streets.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton had an estimated 90 minutes left in the prosecution's closing arguments (Read in depth>>) .


Rod Blagojevich Scandal: More Key Players

Visit the "Who's Who" page to learn more about the former Illinois governor , his co-defendants, inner circle, the legal team and what people like President Obama , Sen. Dick Durbin and other high-profile people have to do with the case.

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