Blagojevich Defense Rests Without Presenting Witnesses

Despite speculation since the his trial started, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will not testify in his own defense, and his defense attorneys have rested their case without calling any witnesses:

Testimony in the corruption trial of ousted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is over.

A lawyer for for Blagojevich told the judge this morning that he didn’t change his mind overnight about not testifying in his own defense against corruption charges.

At 10:10 a.m., attorney Sheldon Sorosky told U.S. District Judge James Zagel: “At this time, the defendant Rod Blagojevich would rest.”

Shortly after, the prosecution rested.

Blagojevich’s lawyers said before going in to court that the former governor is expected to make a statement later today on his decision.

After the defense rested, prosecutors called an FBI agent as a rebuttal witness to testimony given by the former governor’s brother and co-defendant, Robert Blagojevich.

The judge set closing arguments for 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Blagojevich had long insisted he wanted to testify and would testify. Then word came Tuesday that he would not.

In court this morning, the scene was anticlimactic.

The judge first asked if Robert Blagojevich had any other evidence to offer. He didn’t.

In those seconds, Rod Blagojevich sat at the defense table, looking down, neatly organizing pens in front of his notebook.

Zagel then gestured to Sorosky, who stood and made it official that the former governor would present no witnesses in his own defense.

The jurors all looked at the defendants’ table. One juror’s eyes widened upon hearing the news. The others largely looked without expression.

This is what you can only call some ballsy litigating. Essentially Blago and his lawyers are rolling the dice on the idea that the government has not sufficiently proven their case, how that works out for them will be interesting to watch.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    My read is that when Rod’s brother got raked over the stand, the defense had to rethink it’s strategy.

    Rod’s brother, Robert, is a co-defendant on a few counts. He was hardly mentioned in much of the prosecution’s case; his attorneys generally didn’t cross-examine; he was sort of the forgotten, somber third wheel on the date.

    Robert took the stand, contradicted himself, and helped bring in some more damning wiretap tapes. Instead of appearing as a more-grounded Blago only peripherally involved in corruption, he looked like he was still covering up for his brother.

    I don’t think Rod’s attorneys were confident that their client wouldn’t fall in the same trap. Rod is over-confident, bordering on delusional. I think Robert hurt himself and his brother by taking the stand. For one thing, the jury is going to consider Robert taking the stand when Rod’s attorney explain why Rod didn’t take the stand.

  2. Not to mention the fact that putting Rod on the stand probably would have been a monumental disaster for the defense

  3. PD Shaw says:

    And a disaster for the Illinois Democratic Party. I bet everyone from the White House to the precinct boss is breathing a sight of relief that it’s over well before November.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Rod is over-confident, bordering on delusional.

    If he’s bordering, it’s not on the sane side of delusional.

    I agree with your observation about the sigh of relief. If the case had gone on for another couple of months, the consequences could have been pretty dire for Illinois Democrats. It still won’t be pretty but they’ve got a few months for damage control.

  5. PD Shaw says:

    Rod’s lawyer says 8 to 5, his client walks.

    I’m guessing 4 to 1, he stays.

  6. Like I said, it was a ballsy move. I’ve only done it once and that was in a very minor civil case with a Plaintiff’s attorney who had no idea what they were doing and it was a bench trial, I’ve really got to wonder what the jury thinks about the fact that the defense didn’t put on any evidence at all.

    At the same time, from some of the reading I’ve done there seems to be some consensus that the prosecution case hasn’t been quite as strong as previously thought.

    With a jury, anything’s possible.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    The last Illinois governor convicted and sentenced to jail didn’t testify either. I’m not sure about the times before that.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    BTW Doug, it wasn’t speculation that Blago would testify, his attorney said in opening argument his client would testify.

    My prediction: Prosecution frames its closing argument around specific promises made by Blagojevich’s attorney during opening statements without specifically mentioning this broken promise.