Tuesday, August 17, 2010



Some thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the Blagojevich verdict:

• Paul Green, political science professor at Roosevelt University and one of the foremost experts on the subject of Chicago politics, made a good point on one of the local news shows when he was interviewed on the verdict. Green pointed out that many politicians who had breathed a heavy sigh of relief when it became clear that they wouldn’t be called as witnesses in this trial are once again nervous at the prospect of having to be involved in the second stage of this circus (my characterization, not Green’s, on the nature of the Blagojevich trial). Nobody thinks the President is going to be called, or at least that he will be successfully called. But Rahm Emanuel is a logical witness for either the prosecution or the defense. And, while Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine are not politicians, it is highly likely they will be called by the prosecution in a retrial, and that notion doubtless makes a lot of pols around this town nervous.

• The government announced almost instantaneously that it would retry the counts on which the jury deadlocked. No matter what one thinks of Rod Blagojevich as a person or of the strength of the case against him, it’s awfully scary that the government, with its inexhaustible resources, can keep coming back at anybody until the government gets him or her. It’s even more frightening when the motivation of the government might not be entirely pure; e.g., in this case, perhaps the government’s enthusiasm for a retrial arises from the consequences for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s reputation, and career, if this ruling stands.

• Having said what was said in the last bullet point, a lot of people seem to be forgetting that Rod Blagojevich is now a convicted felon. And if he doesn’t get that conviction on a single count overturned on appeal, he could very easily go to jail. He might not, though, if Judge Zagel concludes, with some justification, that the one count on which Blago was convicted was something of a (Sorry, folks, there’s not better word here so I have to use a Blagoism.) bull*&$@ count and fines him or gives him some sort of other nearly exculpatory sentence.

• On tonight’s (i.e., Tuesday, 8/17, the night of the verdict) edition of Chicago Tonight, Sam Adam, Jr. equivocated when asked whether he will be representing Rod Blagojevich in the retrial. He mentioned his family, his other clients, and a number of other reasons why he might not be back. The way I see it, Adam has little to gain and a lot to lose by representing the RodMan again. At this stage, Adam looks to most people, and most potential clients, rightly or wrongly, like the victor. Note that the government rarely loses the second time around. (See my second bullet point again.) Why should Sam, Jr. take the huge risk of losing the second round and having that memory be the one that sticks when he can remain the “guy who won” and blame a second round loss on either an out of control prosecutor or a defense attorney who lacked Adam’s skill? And, while Adam wasn’t paid his usual fees for the first trial, he will be paid even less if he defends Blago again. I don’t like to make predictions, but I don’t expect to see Sam Adam, Jr. working for Rod Blagojevich in the retrial.

Sam Adam, Sr., might be another story. Seventy five years old, and genuinely infuriated at the government and at Patrick Fitzgerald in particular, he might take this case on principle.


Anonymous said...

Insightful, per usual. The prosecutorial power of the federal government is indeed immense. (Not necessarily a bad thing, esp. in cases like this with one juror holding out.)

One additional note: A federal jury convicted a Chicago man on August 14th of threatening three Federal Appeals Court judges. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-08-14/threats-to-three-u-s-judges-leads-to-conviction-in-third-trial.html Two things make this relevant: The conviction came on the third trial, following two hung juries. The porsecutor making the decision to continue to try the case was one Patrick Fitzgerald. (The case had been moved from the NOrthern District of Illinois to NYC in search of an impartial jury.)

I don't see Fitzgerald letting this one go unless Jury No. 2 acquits or is hung 11 to 1 in favor of acquittal.


The Pontificator said...

As usual, great comment, Joe. And yet more reasons that I continue to hold my libertarian leaning views. The federal government's prosecutorial power is immense and, while, as you point out, that's not necessarily bad, it is always frightening, or at least pause-giving.
Thanks, Joe, for reading and commenting.