Blagojevich defense starts closing arguments -

Blagojevich defense starts closing arguments

CHICAGO (AP) -- A defense attorney for Rod Blagojevich began making his final arguments Thursday, saying the ousted Illinois governor never made one shakedown or demand.
Aaron Goldstein came on strong, raising his voice as he told jurors the prosecution hadn't proved his client guilty of anything and attacked the credibility of the government's witnesses.
"You heard about shakedowns and demands," he said. "Rod didn't make one shakedown and one demand."
Goldstein also applauded Blagojevich for taking the witness stand, saying it took courage.
"He told you the truth, he walked all the way over here, something he did not have to do," he said. "A man charged does not have to prove a thing. That man did not have to go up there, did not have to testify."
Jurors could start deliberating as soon as Thursday.
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.
Government attorney Carrie Hamilton had finished her closing argument earlier, picking up where she left off the day before.
She told jurors that despite Blagojevich's denials, the evidence, including secret FBI recordings of his conversations, proves he used his power as governor to benefit himself.
"What he is saying to you now is not borne out anywhere on the recordings that you have," Hamilton said.
The former governor looked glum as he followed along, frowning, his eyes narrowed, picking at his fingernails. He had testified for seven days during the six-week trial.
Several of Blagojevich's closest aides and former best friends, including law school classmate Lon Monk, testified against him under plea agreements with prosecutors that required them to testify truthfully. Unlike the former governor, they have no incentive to lie, Hamilton said.
"Lon Monk, to save himself, needs to tell the truth," Hamilton said. "The person who's lying ... is the defendant, not Lon Monk."
Hamilton had told jurors Wednesday that when they deliberate they should listen carefully to FBI wiretap recordings that underpinned much of the government's three-week case.
"This is not just politics, this is a politician engaging in criminal conduct," she said.
Hamilton also 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.
Karen Hawkins can be reached at Michael Tarm can be reached at
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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