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Rod Blagojevich 'silly,' but not a criminal, defense says

The defense lawyer for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich waved his arms, shouted, and worked up a sweat in a rowdy closing argument Tuesday. Jury deliberations begin Wednesday.

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks with Darrell Murphy as he arrives at the Federal Court building in Chicago for closing arguments in his federal corruption trial Tuesday.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich may talk a lot and possess “horrible judgment in people” but he’s no criminal. That’s the gist of the case made by Mr. Blagojevich’s defense attorney, Sam Adam Jr., in his bombastic closing argument Tuesday.

Mr. Adam waved his arms, shouted, and worked up a sweat as he tried to convince jurors that his client is not guilty of the 24 counts against him, including extortion, fraud, and perjury, and the allegation that he attempted to sell the US Senate seat vacated by President Obama. In the process, he elicited a nonstop stream of objections – nearly all sustained – from the federal prosecutors.

“It’s beginning to look more like a show,” said Judge James Zagel after one objection.

The contrast between the defense and the prosecution – one loud, theatrical, and filled with emotion; the other careful and precise as prosecutor Chris Niewoehner walked jurors through the government’s complex case on Monday – is a dramatic one, and Adam’s style is one more often seen in state court than in a federal courthouse, say observers.

“Whenever the government has a strong case, it’s boring and methodical, and when the defense doesn’t have anything else to do it kicks all four walls and screams about the abuse of governmental power,” says Albert Alschuler, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. “And you suspect that the defense is not looking for an acquittal, [but] is looking for a hung jury.”

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