Corruption case against former governor goes to jury

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 09, 2011 7:19 PM
Corruption case against former governor goes to jury

By Janan Hanna

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Rod Blagojevich may have talked a lot and sought campaign money, but he didn't do anything illegal, his lawyer told a federal jury on Thursday.

"He didn't commit one crime," attorney Aaron Goldstein told jurors in closing arguments in Blagojevich's corruption trial.

"He didn't get a dime, a nickel, a penny. Not in campaign contributions. Not in his pocket. Nothing."

The case against Blagojevich went to a federal jury Thursday afternoon. He faces corruption charges for his alleged attempts to gain personal benefit and campaign funds in exchange for appointing a senator to fill the seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

He also allegedly shook down business executives for campaign contributions in exchange for carrying out official government business.

Blagojevich was convicted on one count of lying to federal officials last August, but the jury couldn't reach a decision on other counts. In the last trial, he offered no defense. In this case, he took the stand in his own defense.

Blagojevich was arrested on December 9, 2008, a few days after he directed his brother to meet with someone who had offered $1.5 million in exchange for appointing Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., to the Senate seat. Jackson has not been charged with wrongdoing.

"A politician is allowed to demand, solicit, seek, ask for directly or indirectly campaign contributions," Goldstein told jurors. "We may not like it. We may not like the system. That's what we have. That is politics today. And that is the law."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar told jurors Thursday that the evidence of Blagojevich's guilt is "overwhelming."

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton)