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Former Blago Attorney: Tapes Would’ve Changed Outcome

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Sam Adam Jr.

Attorney Sam Adam Jr., who represented Rod Blagojevich in his first trial. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Rod Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. still maintains that if all the tapes of wiretapped conversations had been played at trial, the outcome would have been different.

Adam, who represented Blagojevich in his first trial last year, appeared Wednesday night on the CBS 2 News at 6 p.m. with Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson.

Before Blagojevich was convicted in his second trial, he insisted over and over on high-profile national talk shows that if all the tapes were played, he would be proven innocent. His attorneys even asked U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel if they could play additional tapes at sentencing, but Zagel said no.

At the hearing Wednesday when Zagel sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison, Blagojevich was contrite, and said he was “unbelievably sorry” for his actions. But Adam said if all the tapes had been played, that might not have had to happen.

“I’ve said this from day one, having listened to them – not just talking, having listened to them – I honestly believe in my gut, there is no doubt that this trial would have been different,” Adam said.

Adam represented Blagojevich in the first trial along with his father, Sam Adam Sr., and said he is intimately familiar with all the content of the tapes.

“I honestly believe there is no doubt that this case would have been different, and if I’m wrong, why can’t we hear them now?” Adam said.

Adam is under a gag order issued by Zagel and cannot discuss the content of the tapes. But referring back to his opening statement in Blagojevich’s first trial, he suggested that Zagel was incorrect in his remark during the sentencing hearing that Blagojevich never sought advice on whether his actions were legal or not.

“If you recall and go back and look at my opening statement that I told the jurors, the crux of our defense was advice of counsel, and we had asked a number of times to play tapes,” Adam said. “I cannot and will not – I will abide by Judge Zagel’s gag order on what those tapes were. But go back and look at my opening statement. Go back and look and see what has been released and what hasn’t, and you’ll see that’s exactly what we did the first time. And I’d like to know why we can’t hear it now if I’m wrong.”

Blagojevich’s own defiant proclamations of innocence had come to an end by the day of his sentencing. But Adam said by the time Blagojevich apologized for his actions, he was “in a box.”

“He’s got to look at the judge and either tell him, ‘I don’t care what you do to me,’ or, ‘I’m sorry for what’s going on and this is what I’ve done,’ and I can’t say he chose the wrong way in a sentencing,” Adam said. “I’ve been blessed not to have to go through a lot of sentencings in my career, so I can’t really tell you whether he did the right or the wrong.”

Adam said he no longer has the tapes; they are now in the hands of the defense team in Blagojevich’s second trial, led by Sheldon Sorosky.

“But I’ll tell you this – if he takes that order off, I’d love to come back here and go over them with you,” Adam said.

Zagel blocked the tapes at trial, largely because he found them to be immaterial or irrelevant. When Jacobson asked Adam why Zagel won’t let the public hear the tapes, Adam replied: “You can’t ask me that; I’ve been asking for three years. Ask them.”

The first trial in which Adam represented Blagojevich ended in a hung jury on all but one count of lying to the FBI. But in his second trial, Blagojevich was convicted of 17 counts of corruption – including trying to sell President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.

Blagojevich must report to prison by Feb. 16.

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