Blagojevich takes stand to testify in own defense -

Blagojevich takes stand to testify in own defense

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By Afton Spriggs By Afton Spriggs

CHICAGO (AP) -- Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich began testifying in his own defense for the first time Thursday, finally fulfilling a promise to make his own case before a jury.

Blagojevich introduced himself to jurors by saying "I used to be your governor" and "I'm here today to tell you the truth."

The former governor faces 20 federal corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat for personal gain. A jury deadlocked on most of the charges last year in the first trial, when Blagojevich did not testify after promising for months to do so.

In the first minutes of testimony, Blagojevich's attorney asked him about his upbringing, and he spoke about his first hit in Little League baseball and about how his father left the family at one point to work on the Alaskan oil pipeline.

At one point, his attorney showed him a picture of him as a young man with his mother and father.

Blagojevich took the stand after his attorneys asked for a mistrial Thursday, accusing prosecutors of not playing fair in broaching an incident in testimony the day before that may have badly damaged Blagojevich in jurors' eyes.

The defense asked for the mistrial on the basis of testimony by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, in which the congressman said during cross-examination that his wife didn't get a promised appointment to head the Illinois Lottery after Jackson refused to give Blagojevich a $25,000 campaign donation.

Thursday's motion says the defense made clear in previous closed meetings with the judge that they objected to Jackson bringing the alleged incident up. And it says the defense carefully crafted its questions of Jackson so as not to give prosecutors the chance to broach it.

Defense attorneys did not object to the testimony at the time, but they said they didn't miscalculate in putting Jackson on the stand, the motion says.

"The only decision by the defense that, in retrospect, may have been unwise was to trust the government to abide by the rules and play fair, and to trust that this Court would hold the government to the same standard as the defense," it says.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)





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