Prosecutor Zeros In On Ex-Governor’s Comments That Obama Seat Was ‘F—-‘ Golden
Rod Blagojevich arrived in court with his wife and two young daughters at his side, as prosecutors began their closing arguments in the deposed governor’s corruption trial.
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Blagojevich gave a thumbs up as he entered the courthouse Monday morning. It is the first time his two daughters have been in court with him during the trial.
Every seat in the main courtroom and the overflow courtroom was full of reporters and spectators in anticipation of closing arguments. Altogether, more than 200 people were present in both rooms.
Before beginning closing arguments, federal prosecutors announced Monday morning that they were dismissing Count 13 of the indictment against Robert Blagojevich. Count 13 is a wire fraud charge relating to the alleged scheme to try and get as much as $6 million in campaign contributions from supporters of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for naming Jackson to the Senate seat.
In his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Atty. Chris Niewoehner said, “On November 5th, 2008, the day after the historic election of Barack Obama, Rod Blagojevich summed up this case.” When Blagojevich said, “I’ve got this thing and it’s f***ing golden and I’m not giving it up for f***ing nothing.”
Niewoehner pointed specifically to the alleged attempt to get campaign cash from Jackson’s supporters in exchange for appointing Jackson to Obama’s former senate seat.
“That dirty scheme was the culmination of years of dirty schemes,” Niewoehner said, adding that Blagojevich repeatedly asked himself while making official decisions as governor, “What about me?”
“He was directing and participating and acting in crime after crime. He was at the center of it all,” Niewoehner said. “The person who was going to benefit was defendant Rod Blagojevich. It all goes back to him.”
Niewoehner also said that Blagojevich’s brother, Robert Blagojevich, agreed to help the governor in those schemes after agreeing to become his campaign chairman in the summer of 2008.
“He agreed to help and he tried to,” Niewoehner said. “When you agree with someone else to commit a crime, you’ve just committed one.”
Niewoehner also used many of Rod Blagojevich’s own words against him in his closing. Quoting from some of the tapes that jurors have heard in court, Niewoehner told jurors that Blagojevich was trying to get himself a Cabinet position, ambassadorship or other high-paying job in exchange for naming Obama’s friend and adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to the Senate seat.
“Do they think I would just appoint Valerie Jarrett for nothing? Just to make him happy?” Blagojevich said in one of the tapes, Niewoehner told jurors.
“They’re not willing to give me anything but appreciation? F*** them,” Blagojevich said in another tape.
Niewoehner also reminded jurors of something that Blagojevich’s defense attorney, Sam Adam Jr., told them in his opening statement, that Blagojevich is deep in debt.
Niewoehner said Adam told the jury, “Well, (Blagojevich is) broke. He can’t be corrupt.”
“He’s broke because the FBI stopped him from taking money,” Niewoehner said. “They stopped him from selling the Senate seat.”
Niewoehner also reminded jurors of Blagojevich’s lavish spending on clothing while he was governor, saying, “He spends more money than he makes, simple as that.”
The prosecutor said that Blagojevich’s financial problems were a driving force for his efforts to line his own pockets from his official actions as governor.
Rod Blagojevich’s defense team rested last week without calling a single witness, although Robert Blagojevich did take the stand earlier. The deposed governor had been promising enthusiastically to take the stand in his own defense since well before his trial began, and defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. repeated that promise in his opening statement.
But just last week, Blagojevich and his attorneys decided not to put him on the stand after all. They claimed it was because federal prosecutors had failed to prove their case, so there was no need for Blagojevich to testify.
If convicted, Blagojevich could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.
Todd Feurer, cbs2chicago.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.