Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein began his closing arguments 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 opened by saying Blagojevich did not get a dime, nickel or penny, and “Rod” didn’t make one shakedown or demand. Blagojevich didn’t some close to doing anything, Goldstein said, all he did was talk. Blagojevich never made a decision to do anything, Goldstein said, continuing that if Blagojevich doesn’t make a decision, he doesn’t have an intent, running into an objection from the prosecution that was sustained by the judge.
Goldstein continued Blagojevich did not intend to do anything the prosecution said.
Rod likes to talk a lot, a lot, a lot, Goldstein said, and the walk from his seat as a defendant to the witness stand took courage. He said Blagojevich told the jury the truth.
The man charged doesn’t have to prove a thing, Goldstein said, and he did not have to go on the stand. Government witnesses had an easier walk to the stand since it was mandatory, Goldstein argued, while Blagojevich did it voluntarily.
Goldstein asked why some of the “victims” in the case, like Gerald Krozel and John Johnston, were testifying under immunity grants from the FBI. Lon Monk was testifying for freedom when he was on the stand, Goldstein said,
The defense put up a picture in the courtroom of a FedEx envelope with a red bow on it on an overhead projector, and asked why when Monk testified he thought $70,000 to $90,000 he received in FedEx envelopes from Tony Rezko was a gift, he wasn’t prosecution for the offense.
Goldstein told the jury to not forget who has the burden of proof in the case: the government. The prosecution has to prove each element of every count beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.
The jury heard Rod thinking out loud on and on and on on the tapes, Goldstein said, and Rod likes to talk a lot. He did that on the stand, Goldstein said, even talking over his own attorneys’ objections.
In the seven days Blagojevich was on the stand, Goldstein said he hoped the jury got to know Blagojevich and how thinks, seeing he’s not perfect. Goldstein said Blagojevich told the jury about his flaws, but also the truth: that he did not commit one crime.
Goldstein repeated that Blagojevich likes to talk and that’s all the jury heard, but talk is not a crime. Goldstein told the jury to not let the prosecution oversimplify the case – all Blagojevich did was float ideas.
Goldstein encouraged the jury to listen to the tapes as many times as they need, because the most important issue in the entire case is what’s in this man’s mind.
How do you determine what’s in Blagojevich’s mind besides having him explain it, Goldstein asked.
Actions speak louder than words, Goldstein said, and in his testimony, Blagojevich showed in his testimony that he had trouble making decisions about who would fill the senate seat.
Decisions are tough and hard to make, Goldstein said, and without a decision there is no intent. Blagojevich didn’t intend to do any of the things alleged and the case is about nothing, Goldstein said.
Goldstein told the jury there was not one piece of evidence that showed the Chicago Academy grant was held up from Aug. 2005 to Aug. 2006.
On the Tollway shakedown, Goldstein went over Blagojevich’s testimony that he only announced the smaller program because if he announced the larger one before the capital bill, he would lose support for the capital bill from other politicians like Mayor Daley, which Goldstein said makes perfect sense.
Goldstein reminded the jury that a politician is allowed by law to directly or indirectly ask for campaign donations, and a public official has a right to request donations even if that official has public business pending before him. Goldstein said you can’t force someone to donate, but an official can always ask.
The jury was not there to decide if the system is good or bad, Goldstein said, only to determine if Blagojevich committed a crime.
During Blagojevich’s Sept. 18, 2008 meeting with Gerald Krozel, Goldstein said, the two talked about fundraising and state business, but that’s it. They talked, and that’s ok, Goldstein said.
If Krozel was shaken down, Goldstein asked, why would he then introduce Blagojevich to his new bosses?
Goldstein said Blagojevich had every reason to go through with the $1.8 billion Tollway project but not the $5 billion one.
Questioning why John Wyma would tell the FBI what Blagojevich said about the Tollway projects, Goldstein pointed out Wyma had just been subpoenaed and refused to wear a wire. “That’s who you’re going to believe?” Goldstein asked.
Goldstein if the jury was going to believe Monk, the man who took $70,000 to $90,000 in gifts from Rezko.
Blagojevich told the truth about Krozel and the Tollway projects, Goldstein said, and there was no shakedown.
Goldstein questioned Krozel’s credibility, saying he fluctuated on saying whether or not he felt pressured by Blagojevich, sometimes saying he did, sometimes saying he did not. Goldstein said Krozel was not shaken down in any way whatsoever; Blagojevich asked for campaign money as was his right, and the case is about nothing.
Goldstein says Blagojevich had every reason to believe Johnston was going to make the donation, adding that he understood them to contribute to them as far back as July of 2008; that was Blagojevich's state of mind.
Goldstein repeated that a governor has 60 days to decide what to do with a bill passed by both houses – whether to sign or veto it. He reasoned that because Blagojevich didn’t sign it right way doesn’t mean he was holding it up.
Goldstein goes on to talk about how Blagojevich said he wanted to look at all of the unsigned bills together, to look for poison pill language. Even though Harris said there was no poison pill language in this bill, Goldstein says Blagojevich had other concerns (he didn’t say what they were), that the bill absolutely was not being held up for fundraising purposes.
RACE TRACK BILL SHAKEDOWN
Goldstein talked about Chris Kelly and the race track bill, saying that Kelly and Blagojevich hadn’t talked for a year, then he called Blagojevich on Nov. 27, 2007 on Thanksgiving. In that call, he mentioned the bill and a pardon. Kelly was under indictment for federal tax charges. Goldstein pointed out a call in which Blagojevich doesn’t know he's being recorded, and Blagojevich says he has concerns about the bill after talking to Kelly and that he would sign it in his own time.
Goldstein switched to the topic of Lon Monk and a Dec. 3, 2008, meeting between Blagojevich and Monk at the Friends of Blagojevich offices. At that time the two were close friends who were having a private conversation in which Monk told Blagojevich he wanted to tell Johnston he didn’t want to cross the line and that one has nothing to do with the other. Again, he said, neither party knew they were being recorded. Goldstein says sometimes people actually mean what they say without crossing the line and one has nothing to do with the other -- despite Monk testifying that it really was one for the other and they were crossing lines.
In another conversation on Dec. 3, in which Monk called Blagojevich after meeting with Johnston, Monk told Blagojevich he had "two separate conversations." Goldstein said sometimes the words mean what they are.
Goldstein asked the jury not to convict Blagojevich if they think "guilty" means “not guilty”, because “too much is at stake here.”
CHILDREN’S MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
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 said the Children’s Memorial Hospital charges said Blagojevich cared more about fundraising than healthcare. That’s not true, Goldstein reasoned.
Goldstein went over how Blagojevich got a call from Dusty Baker and then called Magoon immediately after. He said Blagojevich called Magoon to tell him the rate increase was approved -- and asked not to keep it quiet until Jan. 1, 2009. Goldstein argued that this was not a "nefarious" attempt by Blagojevich to hold up a rate increase for fundraising. He did have budget concerns to take into account.
Goldstein said Blagojevich wanted the increase to go through from day one, but that he had to make budge cuts "left and right", adding “that’s absolutely the truth.”
Goldstein went over an Oct. 8 fundraising meeting at Friends of Blagojevich with Wyma, or "Mr. Immunity.” They talked about asking Magoon for a fundraiser, he said.. Goldstein said Magoon is a prior contributor to Blagojevich, and it made sense to ask him to go it again. He argued that is not nefarious.
Goldstein told the jury again they 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.
While the prosecution says the "ask" is the crime, Goldstein said, it’s actually not because Blagojevich had no intent to hold up the rate increase if didn’t get a donation.
Moving on to the Nov. 12 call in which Blagojevich asks Greenlee if they could pull back the rate increase for budget concerns. Blagojevich says "good to know.” Goldstein said "good to know” is not an order or direction in any language. Thats all it meant, he said, that is was good to know.
Also on Nov. 12, Goldstein said asked the jury to look at how Blagojevich told Robert not to call Magoon, trying to argue he was no longer pushing for the rate increase.
Goldstein pointed out a call Greenlee said he had with Blagojevich; a call Goldstein said wasn’t recorded and that it didn’t happen. Goldstein said it was a “phantom call.” It’s the Nov. 12 call in which Blagojevich supposedly asked about holding back the rate increase and said “good to know.” Goldstein said Greenlee made a mistake, and that it happens.
Goldstein told the jury to look at what happened next -- Blagojevich didn’t get a fundraiser and didn’t hold back the rate increase.
Goldstein said that Blagojevich talks a lot, and argued that’s all that happened with the different Senate seat scenarios – HHS, 501(c4), Lisa Madigan. He said what the jury heard was Blagojevich's thought process on the tapes, and that he had no intent because he didn’t decide anything about the Senate seat.
Goldstein said that Blagojevich didn’t call anyone about the Senate seat, arguing that Emanuel, Katz, Balanoff, etc., were the ones calling him.
Blagojevich talked to Balanoff because he was a friend, Goldstein argued, and Blagojevich saw him as a "prober”, a feeler. It was very clear he needed to talk to David Axelrod to get anything done, but Blagojevich never called him.
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.
Goldstein listed examples of what Blagojevich says in some calls to dispute the prosecution’s argument that said Blagojevich tried to conceal the deals.
Goldstein banged on podium and tells the jury, "Listen to these calls."
He indicated that Blagojevich was not making a deal. “Absolutely not,” he argued.
JESSE JACKSON JR. AND THE SENATE SEAT
Goldstein said an offer from the Jesse Jackson Jr. people was made and rejected several times, as Blagojevich stated in his testimony.
He told the jury that Blagojevich testified that Lisa Madigan was his number one pick, but he still hadn’t made a decision on Dec. 4.
Goldstein went over the calls between Blagojevich, Reid, Menendez and Reinsdorf, and said Blagojevich hadn’t decided about the Senate seat yet, including the Madigan deal.
Goldstein said Blagojevich was using Jackson Jr. for "negative leverage" to get the Madigan deal going. He then went over the call with Greenlee in which Blagojevich admonishes Greenlee for disagreeing with Blagojevich about Jackson Jr. in front of Yang. And then he went to the call in which Blagojevich told Robert he was elevating Jackson Jr. because Washington people were "freaking out." about Jackson Jr. possibly being appointed to the Senate seat.
Goldstein argued that Blagojevich was really using Nayak to get to Jackson Jr. to talk to him about mortgage foreclosures, and that Lisa Madigan was the number one pick.
Goldstein went over a call from Dec. 8 in which Blagojevich said they had to make some decisions and start acting. Goldstein says Blagojevich was telling Harris to tell Emanuel about Jackson Jr. to get the negative leverage going.
Goldstein went over a call in which Blagojevich said to “start working on the tactics of (the Madigan deal.”
He also went over the call from the night of Dec. 8 in which Greenlee told Blagojevich “it’s working out well” and to "just quietly do it." This is the last call Blagojevich made before he was arrested.
Goldstein played the call again in court.
He said there was more to this call, and mentioned Antoin Rezko. He said Rezko was scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 6, 2009, but that he still hasn’t been sentenced.
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.
Court took a short break before the prosecution began their rebuttal argument.
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.