Three Data Points on Blagojevich

While some of us were busy in DC meeting Roland Burris this week, there were three data points of note in the Blagojevich scandal.

Genson Gone

First and foremost, Blago defense attorney Edward Genson quit his criminal trial.

Powerhouse lawyer Edward Genson, who most recently helped singer R. Kelly beat a child-pornography rap, said he will be "formally off" Blagojevich’s criminal case "when the next court hearing comes along.

"I wish him luck, and I hope he wins," Genson said. 

Now this is different from Genson’s earlier refusal to defend Blago in his impeachment trial. In that action, Genson was joined by co-counsels Sam Adam Sr. and Jr. This decision, however, appears to stem from disagreements with the Adams.

Genson, sources said, had been frustrated over a lack of communication with other attorneys for Blagojevich. That dissension boiled over Thursday when lawyer Sam Adam Sr. and his son Sam Adam Jr. said they planned to file a lawsuit to block the governor’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Genson had said there was no chance a lawsuit would be filed.

The Genson announcement is interesting for a couple of other reasons. Recall that Sam Adam Jr. was the one who brokered the Burris appointment–even after Genson had announced that Blago would not appoint anyone for the seat. When asked by the legislative committee whether having one’s defense attorney negotiate the appointment of a senate seat described in the criminal complaint tainted that appointment, Genson insisted that Sam Adam Jr. was not a part of the defense team.

And here we are, just a few weeks later, and Adam is a part of the team and Genson is not.

But the split here may represent larger disagreements about the proper course for Blago. If Genson fought unsuccessfully to prevent Blago from appointing anyone, and if he is now implicitly accepting the legal basis for the impeachment (or at least the inadvisability of challenging its legality), it is possible his defense strategy more closely resembled what a sane person’s would be: for Blago resign without appointing to the seat before an impeachment and get the best deal from Fitz you can. And, as a reminder, Blago’s team (or at least his team prior to Genson quitting) readily agreed to a 90 day delay of Blago’s indictment. Not that his new, Genson-less team could change their mind or would. But the quick acceptance of the 90 day deadline might have signaled an attempt on Genson’s part to start negotiating with Fitz. Or, it might represent an effort to play to the jury pool for a while to discredit the case. Or both. Particularly given yesterday’s media blitz from Blago, I’m guessing it is now exclusively the latter.

Patti Fired

In other news, Blago’s wife Patricia was fired from her job as a fundraiser for a homeless charity.

Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich is out of a job.

Blagojevich — who started Sept. 1 as development director of the 100-year-old Chicago Christian Industrial League — was quietly dismissed from her $100,000-a-year job on Tuesday.

The reason for her firing is almost certainly because she wasn’t doing what they needed her to do, even before her husband got arrested.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Jan. 8 that the charity raises about $1 million a year but needed to increase that to $2 million.


The Sun-Times reported that, in each of Patti Blagojevich’s first three months on the job, the Christian Industrial League brought in $10,000 to $15,000 a month — the same as it did before she started, according to president William Good.

But it coincidentally breaks a tie between Blago and Burris–Burris’ lobbying partner, Fred Lebed, is on the board of the charity. And it also breaks a tie between Blago and Richard Daley–the charity is broke because it moved out of its older location in Greek Town to make way for a condo development built by a Daley crony.

It was supposed to be a quintessential City Hall deal.

Help the homeless. Remove an eyesore from a booming neighborhood.

And help Mayor Daley’s pal build a multi-million-dollar condo development.

The deal cost Chicago taxpayers at least $13.5 million. But it hasn’t worked out as planned:

One of the city’s oldest homeless shelters left its crumbling home in Greektown for a new $25 million, state-of-the-art building. But the deal left the homeless shelter on the verge of bankruptcy, desperate to raise millions of dollars to continue its 100-year-old mission.

So the charity — the Chicago Christian Industrial League — hired someone to raise money: Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich. But that hasn’t worked out, either. She’s raised little, if any, money since she started four months ago. And her job has gotten tougher since her husband’s arrest on corruption charges last month.

And the mayor’s friend? Developer Michael Marchese and his partners, including indicted businessman William F. Cellini, built their luxury condo development where the homeless shelter once stood. But the recession has hurt them. They’ve sold just half the 212 condos.

Incidentally, seemingly Daley agrees with Genson, or at least seems to think Blago is "cuckoo" for some of his claims about the impeachment. 

Daley turned into an amateur psychiatrist Friday when asked about the governor’s claim that the state Senate’s upcoming impeachment trial is a plot to get Blagojevich out of the way to pave the wave for a massive tax increase.

Finally, worthy of note, the charity has to pay off a loan made available via the same Illinois Finance Authority Blago was going to use to put through the Wrigley Park deal.

Its big hurdle: repaying a $10.8 million loan it obtained from ShoreBank with help from the Illinois Finance Authority — a state agency created by Blagojevich’s husband, the governor — to build the $25 million homeless shelter.

Now, as I said, there’s no reason to believe that Patti got fired for any other reason than she wasn’t raising enough money–and her ability to do so only got more and more limited when her husband was arrested. But it is worth noting how her firing breaks on link between a lot of the players in this story.

Four Tapes

And, finally, the judge in this case has authorized the release of the four tapes pertaining to the horse-racing deal, over the procedural objections of Blago and Lon Monk; Blago’s brother Rob initially objected verbally but ultimately did not ask the Court to suppress the tapes, and John Johnston, the track owner in question, appears not to have filed a motion at all. Both Monk, who has his own ties to Burris, and Rob Blago reserved their right to object if they are indicted in this case.

Given those positions, it seems like we’re going to hear some interesting conversations between Blago and Monk–while I expect we’ll hear Johnston pretty refuse their extortion attempts. 

  1. TheraP says:

    It’s a tiny thing to me. But I’m glad to see you advance the theory that Blago truly is nuts, EW. That was my contention all along. But I bowed to the legal wisdom of bmaz when I tried to advance that before. His assumption at the time was that his lawyer would quit the case if Blago was indeed nuts and acting on his own (craziness) and unwilling to take his lawyer’s sane advice. In this case, bmaz, we were both right!

    Kudos, once again, EW. To you and your CREW! I rarely comment unless it’s up my alley a bit, but I check in here every day.

  2. mamayaga says:

    I haven’t seen much speculation about whether these “principled” withdrawals of various attorneys from various proceedings against Blago might stem from his flat-out inability to pay them, now or in the forseeable future. I’ve heard through channels I believe to be reliable here in Chicago that prior to his arrest Blago was in fact represented by uber-lawyer (we have a buncha those in Chi) Dan Webb, but was dropped because he couldn’t pay the bills. Even if Blago somehow dodges the bullet speeding its way to him from Fitz, he has no real prospect of raising the kind of cash needed to pay for a top-drawer defense. This is another way of saying that the Dems are not closing ranks financially to help him out, unlike what happened with George Ryan, who received pro bono defense from Jim Thompson, a former guv himself and another uber-you-know-what. This says to me that there are many fewer Dems afraid of Blago rolling over on them than there were Repubs afraid of what George Ryan might remember.

    • emptywheel says:

      There has been some reporting on that–so I’m sure you’re right, Genson wasn’t sure he was going to get paid.

      Then again, what are the possibilities that Genson WAS being compensated by someone in Chicago, but wouldn’t have been so long as Blago didn’t go quietly??

      That’s one of the reasons I drew all this together–the Daley cuckoo comment and the Genson departure, in conjunction, I found interesting.

      • bmaz says:

        I may be goofy here, but I tend to think Genson insured he could be paid enough when he signed on and that money is not the reason he is bailing. He is an old coot that has been through the wars. If you know what you are doing in big time criminal defense, and Genson most certainly does, you get your money, or the guaranteed assurance thereof, upfront before you sign on to something like this. Crikey, they haven’t even done anything yet of real substance, it is not a money issue already.

    • LabDancer says:

      The ability/willingness to fund the troops is a far more pervasive factor in this story than gets acknowledged in the establishment media. A client gets the best from a happy attorney. Attorneys get all the happy they need from the client in the only two ways that matter: listening to advice & honoring the terms of payment.

      When a privately retained attorney has a client who doesn’t follow advice, it’s typical for the attorney to go into a round of soul-searching – –

      That can be eased and even obviated by the responsibilities of defending being spread through a team whose members are not in the same firm and indeed some of whom may not have worked together before – the ‘dirty dozen’ concept that served OJ Simpson in the murders trial and that was evident in the Trial of Libby. The two previous experiences generally granted as being the source of Ed Genson’s reputation typify that model: the one where he and Adams worked to defend the rapper [the contrast in their styles would have made the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party seem rational: Genson – enervating in his droning anti-brillance; forcing everyone to capitulate to his having to schlump around in his wheelchair, to the point where opposing lawyers start to imagine kicking it; tireless in his efforts to exploit every opening no matter how small or superficial; and constantly juxtaposing his reflexive demonization of the government lawyers and all their witnesses with routinely sarcastic high-toned concepts coupled with the lowest reads on human nature, against the elevation of his client’s right to be presumed not guilty into ethereal innocence – and Adams – with his blunt, supposedly soto voce streetlanguage play-by-play color commentary; and his outrageously conceived, heavy-handedly executed ploys – both of them blatant in their contempt for the process], and the one where he & the Canadian lawyer Greenspan [assisted by a set of specialists] worked to defend Conrad Black [another contrast in styles, Greenspan with his elegantly drawn-out theatrical set-pieces replete with word-games and turf struggles, each built inevitably to a bombastic climax; but the two of them under an additional burden of having to fend off the effects of cutthroat from being one in a group of defendants – which never works when defending the big kahuna] – –

      but it’s rare for the attorney to actually leave the case.

      When the terms of payment aren’t honored, though – – that’s just nuts.

  3. bmaz says:

    Genson insisted that Sam Adam Jr. was not a part of the defense team.

    And here we are, just a few weeks later, and Adam is a part of the team and Genson is not.

    The operative words are “defense team”; is that Blago overall, or Blago criminal? As to the Blago criminal defense case, I still think Genson is right and that Adam was not formally a part of it. Genson is the only attorney of record from all appearances, and that is why he hasn’t really “quit” but, instead, said he would be “off” as counsel by the next court date. Once you are attorney of record in a criminal case, you can’t just quit, there has to be another attorney substituted in before your name can be removed. But it appears that Genson was indeed the only counsel of record; i.e. no Adam, and thus Genson will not be “off” until there is some other attorney on. As to Blago’s overall defense, including the impeachment, the point about the multiple attorneys, including Adam, are valid.

    Quite easy to see why Genson would bail though. I think he has defenses on the merits he wants to make, and does not want his client going to every media outlet available and blabbing his ass off. I would fire Blago for that too. My guess is that was the clincher, not the impeachment crap, although that would annoy the hell out of me too. The lawsuit cannot win, impeachment is a legislative prerogative; yes the legislature is totally fucked, unfair, and is denying Blago due process – they should allow him to subpoena and cross examine- but it is within their power to refuse, they have, and a court isn’t going to upset that. since you cannot win there, why play? Genson is right. His ability to conduct his theory of defense is being ripped to shreds by stupid PR/media meglomaniacs. Blago was half defensible criminally, but he is killing it.

    • bmaz says:

      Let me amend the above comment in this regard: It appears that Blago does indeed have two lead counsels as of today’s PACER status, Genson and Michael D. Ettinger of Ettinger, Besbekos & Parisi. But no Adam. That noted, I assume as long as a motion to withdraw is filed, and the court determines that Blago has counsel of record (Ettinger?) that is prepared to proceed with his defense, that Genson will be officially withdrawn.

    • emptywheel says:

      I noticed that too. ALso note that one of the other lawyers says he’s staying, I’d have to go find his name, it’s not Ettinger.

      That said, it’s interesting that Genson was on and Adam not, given that they work together.

    • bmaz says:

      Yep, but there is a difference to the court between a “Lead” and an “Attorney to be noticed”; all the latter means is that he must be copied on pleadings, he isn’t responsible. Without Genson, at this point, the repsonsible attorney will be Ettinger (although I should note that Genson is not only not withdrawn, there is no official attempt to do so yet).

      • emptywheel says:

        True ’nuff.

        ANd like I suspect you are suggesting, it is still possible this is Genson calling Blago’s bluff.

        Of course, Blago has already ruined Genson’s credibility a couple of times on this case.

        • scribe says:

          Talkleft has noted that Genson is more worried about clients who won’t listen to him.

          I suspect the money issue is a non-issue. As some have said here, old-pro criminal defense lawyers don’t take the case until their being paid is taken care of. Or, as some of my acquaintance have said “until Mr. Green shows up.” When asked who Mr. Green is, the answer is “a necessary witness” or “someone with information critical to the case” or something similar. No one ever saw Mr. Green in the courtroom, but everyone knew who he was.

          No, the problem which has led to Genson being out and whomever being in is more simple – Blago won’t listen to his lawyer, especially when his lawyer is telling him to “STFU if you want to stay out of prison”. Nope – Blago not only won’t STFU, he’ll start his own talk show. And he’ll sue to stop his impeachment.

          Gerson is saying “no” to Blago, and the Adam lawyers are saying “whatever you want”. Guess who had to go?

          Needless to say, somewhere along the line in bringing the suit, Blago will have to prove – to the satisfaction of the court trying that suit – that he is innocent. Which means he has to give up his Fifth Amendment right to not testify.

          You see – as a plaintiff in a civil suit, particularly where your innocence or whether you did or did not do something is – or might be – in issue, you cannot hide behind the Fifth Amendment. If you want the suit to continue, you have to testify. You have to answer discovery, and the standard for whether a discovery question is legitimate is whether the question is “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence”.

          I think I told once told the story here about a case in which I defended a prosecutor against a civil rights case by a plaintiff who claimed he was innocent of a murder for which he had been charged, but that the prosecutor has kept him in jail on really high bail for a minor charge because this plaintiff was the prime suspect. He wanted millions in damages because, he said, he was the victim of malicious prosecution. Well, to prove malicious prosecution, you have to prove you were innocent of the crime for which you claim you were prosecuted. I got rid of the case with a phone call when I told the plaintiff’s lawyer that I had no problem with the plaintiff bringing his case, that we would be taking his deposition soon, and that by the time I got done with him he’d be looking at the business end of a needle. I got a full ten seconds of gut-dropping silence out of that loquacious lawyer when I dropped that one in.

          No – what one has to wonder now is “why are the Adam lawyers making Fitz’ job of convicting Blago so easy, by letting Blago have his head and take himself over the cliff?” And who are the Adam lawyers really working for.

          I suspect the answer is that TPTB in Illinois recognize Blago is a walking dead man and want to get him out of the way in as showy and spectacular a way as possible, such that An End To Corruption could be proclaimed that would allow them to continue doing things The Chicago Way.

  4. BlueStateRedHead says:

    I am unable to do consult the google at this moment. so this is based on memory and may be totally wrong. IIRC, the law the IL AG tried to use to remove Blago from office was about the governor’s impairment or inability to serve. Could that effort be revived if it is argued that he is cuckoo, cannot understand and follow counsel’s advice. etc.

    Just asking.

  5. BlueStateRedHead says:

    Another thing strikes me.

    Somebody must have been picking up the tab for her employment and has pulled out. For the people of the type who do this sort of thing behind the scenes, her monthly salary is pocket change. So who profits from her going?

    If the idea is to induce Blago to go quietly, how is that cause served by firing Patti? In fact it is ill served, as she would be the breadwinner if he were in fact to resign. The need for her to bring in more money was a subject discussed on the tapes, IIRC.

  6. freepatriot says:

    thanks for the view from the lawyer’s side

    here’s a view from the other chair at the defendant’s table

    when yer own lawyer quits, you got some real problems

    I tried to fire my lawyer once, and I created a shit storm in the court room

    at least his lawyer didn’t try to question his sanity …

      • freepatriot says:

        Is his sanity any longer a debatable topic?

        no, but a defense council’s right to ask for a psych evaluation is restricted in certain situations

        I don’t understand it, but it’s a technicality that saved me once …


    • freepatriot says:

      14 was for LabDancer

      he ain’t the only one around here with courtroom experience

      it’s kinda the same thing …


      • LabDancer says:

        “ain’t the only one around here with courtroom experience”

        Just so; and let it not be said that I failed to acknowledge a true master in our midst.

  7. prostratedragon says:

    The weeper of a CCIL story (I’m not kidding) EW links to might be somewhat peripheral to Rod Blagojevich’s peregrinations, but is archetypal in its depiction of entities and relationships in the Chicago polity.

    Reservations are always in order, as I hope the IOC will figure out.

  8. tanbark says:

    Well, as Driftglass informs us, Blago won’t be without a “voice”. Bob Shomper, the program director at Chicago radio station WLS-AM has just announced that if Blago resigns, the station will offer him his own two-hour radio show from noon to 2PM, on Sundays.

    If this deal comes to fruition, we can only hope that one of Blago’s first guests will be that distinguished United State Senator, Roland Burris…and they can delve penetratingly (and legally) into the prospects of the Cubs, the Bears, and The Bulls.

  9. nextstopchicago says:

    Being crazy is sometimes described as continuing to pursue a course of action even as it consistently fails to lead to the desired result.

    Blags is in a very different situation. He was corrupt like many other top Illinois Dems are corrupt. He continued to follow that course of action even after the indictments began burrowing into his operation (as indeed, Daley has continued to do even after the indictments of Sorich, Tomczak, etc.)

    The problem for Blags is that the results have changed. You all look in on this and think, sure, anyone who was that corrupt had to know he couldn’t maintain that kind of behavior without getting in trouble — he must be crazy. Blags is looking at a different pattern of results long-term, and wondering what the hell happened.

    Blags isn’t crazy except to the degree Illinois politics is crazy. And Illinois politics is corrupt, not crazy, unless you believe that Fitz really has changed the pattern of results for all time. To believe that, you have to believe Daley is in the on-deck circle waiting to face Fitz’s pitching.

    • bmaz says:

      Is “Tomczak” Mike Tomczak or someone related to him? I don’t think Blago is crazy, it is completely predictable that public figures, especially politicians, try to defend criminal cases in the court of public opinion. That is not crazy because it is really the norm in some respects. However, I do think he is totally butt assed stupid. Genson looks to be a cranky old fuck, but his theory of defense, and the way he appeared to want to handle it, was spot on if you ask me. Only play in the impeachment case enough to demand full due process and the ability to confront, cross-examine and ability to build a record in your favor. If you are denied that, you walk away with the claim that you are being denied due process, but you DO NOT make a stink you can’t win; you then shut the hell up, avoid pinning yourself down with statements of any kind to the media and defend the criminal case on the merits (or cut a deal and go). Blago started buggering up both prongs of the equation. That makes you as a lawyer look bad and totally trashes your ability to defend on the merits. And, yes, contrary to popular belief, I think Blago is defensible on the merits; not saying it is a winning defense by any stretch of the imagination, but there is at least an operative defense to go to battle with, and Blago was frustrating and undermining that. Totally unacceptable; as a client, he should have been fired.