Defense attorney: Blagojevich 'didn't take a dime'

CHICAGO

Blagojevich will also take the stand on his own behalf, not just let a lawyer speak for him, defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. said in his opening statements.

"The guy ain't corrupt," Adam whispered, after slamming his hand down. He said the ousted governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, will take the stand as well.

Adam, who punctuated his opening remarks by waving his arm and pointing his fingers with his arm extended, said Blagojevich was fooled by those close to him.

Now-convicted influence peddler Antoin "Tony" Rezko helped raise money for lots of political candidates, including Blagojevich, Adam said. But he told jurors that "not a single penny" of ill-gotten money went into Blagojevich's campaign fund or his own pockets.

"You have to be comatose not to figure out how to get a dollar out of $52 billion," Adam said, referring to the state budget. "But who didn't? Him!" he said indicating his client.

Adam says Blagojevich thought Rezko knew campaign laws because he was so good at raising money. Rezko has since been convicted of skimming campaign contributions and seeking personal kickbacks from companies.

Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. He also denies that he plotted to turn his power as governor into a moneymaking scheme for himself and insiders. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 415 years in prison and fines totaling $6 million.

A federal prosecutor told jurors earlier that Blagojevich sought to use his power as governor to get benefits for himself and his inner circle through "a series of illegal shakedowns." And when Obama was elected -- meaning the governor could appoint his successor to the Senate -- Blagojevich's "golden ticket arrived," prosecutor Carrie E. Hamilton said.

In her opening statement, Hamilton methodically laid out what she called a pattern of lying, scheming and extortion that consumed the former governor's time in office, and intensified as his personal financial troubles deepened.

"When he was supposed to be asking, 'What about the people of Illinois,' he was asking, 'What about me?"' Hamilton said.

She told jurors that Blagojevich sought to arrange deals in which entities that got state funding or approvals would then contribute to his campaign, that he sought to line the pockets of himself and his closest allies, and that he lied to the FBI when questioned about his fundraising activities.

"In each one of these shakedowns, the message was clear .... 'Pay up or no state action,"' she said.

The ousted governor sat listening with his head down, scribbling notes as the prosecutor spoke.

In referring to federal authorities, and their might against Blagojevich, Adam told jurors the same people that were chasing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden were chasing him.

"And you know how many illegal accounts they found -- none. He's. Broke. He's broke."

Judge James B. Zagel had given Adam -- best known for his theatrical and successful defense of R&B star R. Kelly two years ago -- an hour and 45 minutes for his statement. He had asked for up to two and a half hours.

The former governor's co-defendant -- and brother -- Robert Blagojevich, 54, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged plan to sell the Senate seat and plotting to illegally squeeze a racetrack owner for a hefty contribution to the Blagojevich campaign fund.

His attorney, Michael Ettinger, reminded jurors that Robert Blagojevich is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army reserve who served in missile unit based in Germany and stayed in the reserves for 16 years.

"Why am I telling you this? Because Robert Blagojevich ... is not about money," Ettinger said, raising his voice slightly for emphasis.

The jury was sworn in earlier Tuesday. Including alternates, the panel has 11 women and seven men.

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