Ex-Gov. Blagojevich Won't Testify After All
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
At his federal corruption trial today, the former governor of Illinois declined to do what he said he would do for months. Rod Blagojevich told a judge that he would not testify on his own behalf and his attorneys rested their case. Though jurors will not get to hear the former governor's claims of innocence, he did repeat them again today to reporters outside the courtroom.
NPR's Cheryl Corley has our story.
CHERYL CORLEY: Rod Blagojevich began the court date jauntily, shouting to reporters and spectators: Welcome to the trial. The former governor had conducted a media blitz for months saying that he would testify. In court, though, the defense rested its case quickly. Federal judge James Zagel called the former governor to the front of the room and asked if declining to testify was Blagojevich's personal decision. The former governor said yes.
A few minutes later, when the jury was dismissed, Blagojevich signed autographs for onlookers in the courtroom. In the lobby, he said his attorneys were split over the decision.
Mr. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Former Illinois Governor): I felt all along and believed all along that I was going to testify.
CORLEY: But Blagojevich said since his lawyers disagreed on that strategy, he listened to what he says was the compelling argument of his senior attorney.
Mr. BLAGOJEVICH: That the government, in their case, proved my innocence. They proved I did nothing illegal and that there was nothing for us to add. And that he believed it was prudent to rest the case. And when you rest the case that means you can't take the stand and testify.
CORLEY: However, Sam Adam, Jr. had told the court in his opening statement that Rod Blagojevich would fight against corruption charges by telling his side of the story in court.
Mr. SAM ADAM, JR. (Attorney): The governor told you what my honest belief is, that, yes, he should go on. But we are not in the business here of pleasing people, we are in the business of defending a client the best way we know how.
CORLEY: Prosecutors have played a number of FBI wiretap recordings that featured an often profane Blagojevich speculating on what he could get in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama. But Blagojevich attorney Sam Adams, Sr. said the government didn't call crucial witnesses it said it would, like President Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
Mr. SAM ADAMS, SR. (Attorney): The law is clear, the burden is proof is on the government. They did not meet their burden of proof and I think the jury will say that.
CORLEY: So now it's up to the jury to decide whether the strategy of not putting Blagojevich on the witness stand was a good one, as this trial nears its end.
Mr. BLAGOJEVICH: Ive learned a lot of lessons from this whole experience, and perhaps maybe the biggest lesson that Ive learned is that I talk too much.
CORLEY: The Blagojevich jury returns to the courtroom to listen to closing arguments on Monday.
Cheryl Corley, NPR New, Chicago.