Blagojevich opts not to testify, defense rests
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich opted not to mount a defense in his corruption case, saying on Wednesday the government had proved only that he talked too much.
"The government in their case proved my innocence. They proved I did nothing illegal. And there was nothing to add," Blagojevich said outside court after his lawyers declared they would call no witnesses, effectively ending the trial.
He admitted some of the conversations captured on FBI audiotapes revealed that he often brainstormed "stupid" ideas, but he said "the government proved that I never took a corrupt dollar.
"I've learned a lot of lessons from this whole experience and perhaps the biggest lesson I've learned is that I talk too much," he added, before departing the courthouse with his wife, Patti.
The state legislature ousted the second-term Democrat from office shortly after he was arrested and charged in late 2008.
The prosecution also rested its case on Wednesday after six weeks of testimony -- well short of the anticipated four-month trial. The case will go to the jury next week, presiding Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court said.
Blagojevich, 53, is being tried on 24 counts of fraud, racketeering, attempted extortion, bribery conspiracy and lying to investigators. Among the charges are allegations Blagojevich tried to sell or barter the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama.
There had been hints that one side or the other would seek the testimony of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman; Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who vied for the Senate seat; and convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, among other political figures. But none testified.
Since his December 2008 arrest, Blagojevich has promised repeatedly to testify in the case, which is based on hundreds of hours of tapes of profanity-laced conversations between him and his aides, a few of whom pleaded guilty and testified against him.
"Individuals like Blagojevich always love to shoot their mouths off and boast how they're going to get on the stand and tell their story to the world, and it rarely happens," said Bradley Simon, a veteran attorney not involved in the case.
Not calling any witnesses may have been a bad move by the defense, Simon said.
"The jury in a trial of this magnitude expects them to come forward with somebody, even if they have no burden to do so," Simon said.
After the jury had left the courtroom, the judge asked Blagojevich whether the decision not to testify was his.
"It is," a confident-sounding Blagojevich said. "Under the advice of my attorneys, I have made this decision fully and voluntarily."
The jury was told in opening arguments that Blagojevich would testify. But his lawyers, led by a father and son team, were divided on the merits of putting Blagojevich on the stand to face an expected tough cross-examination from federal prosecutors. They said the elder defense attorney's 49 years of experience prevailed.
(Additional reporting by James Kelleher; Writing by Andrew Stern; Editing by Eric Beech)
Time magazine named Pope Francis as its Person of the Year, crediting him with shifting the message of the Catholic Church. Slideshow