Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich will take the stand at his fraud trial but claim his Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination if called to testify in a $90 million civil suit, a defense attorney said Friday.
"He is going to look that jury right in the eye and he is going to tell them what he is telling the world, that he is innocent of these criminal charges, and he will say so himself when called to testify at his own trial," Blagojevich attorney Samuel E. Adam said in a brief telephone interview.
But Adam said he and his father, veteran criminal defense attorney Sam Adam, have advised Blagojevich to invoke his constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment if called in the civil suit involving casinos and racetracks.
The Adamses are two of the three top members of the legal team defending Blagojevich on charges that he schemed to trade or sell President Barack Obama's former Senate seat and committed an array of other federal offenses.
The telephone interview came before it was disclosed Friday afternoon that the father-and-son legal team's South Side offices were burglarized overnight; police said eight computers and a safe
An attorney who represents Blagojevich in civil matters, Jay Edelson, said Thursday night that the judge in the civil suit, Matthew F. Kennelly, has been informed that Blagojevich would take the Fifth if called to testify.
Edelson said the former governor would also invoke legislative privilege -- a provision of law designed to keep lawmakers and others from being bombarded by lawsuits for the bills they act upon -- if necessary in the lawsuit.
Edelson said Blagojevich wants his story known but that it would be unwise to testify in the civil suit when the questions' subject matter could overlap with that of the criminal indictment against him.
Adam called The Associated Press to make it clear that while Blagojevich would not testify in the civil suit he would not shrink from doing so at his own trial. The former governor's trial is scheduled to begin June 3.
In the civil suit, four casinos are asking the court to freeze $90 million paid by four casinos to the state treasurer to be distributed to five tracks.
Racetracks and casinos have been battling in Springfield for years, with the tracks claiming that the advent of legal gambling in Illinois has lured away their patrons and made it tougher for them to make money.
Under legislation signed by Blagojevich in 2006 and 2008, the casinos must pay part of their revenue into the fund at the treasurers office to benefit the tracks. Casinos say that unless the fund is frozen they will never get it back.
A federal indictment charges that Blagojevich schemed to squeeze racetrack owner John Johnston for a hefty campaign contribution as the price of signing the bill. Johnston has been accused of no wrongdoing in the case.
But attorneys for the casinos point to $125,000 in campaign contributions to Blagojevich from companies and associations with ties to Johnston in recent years. They say that's why Blagojevich signed the bills.
The lawsuit filed June 12 says the casinos "seek to right one facet of the rampant corruption uncovered as a result of the U.S. attorney's criminal investigation of Blagojevich."