Lawyers for Gov. Rod Blagojevich to boycott impeachment trial

January 17, 2009

(ChattahBox) — What’s the expression here – cutting off your nose to spite your face? Or is it just knowing when to walk away from a fight you can’t win?  In any case, Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s legal team abruptly announced Friday that it would boycott the Senate impeachment trial looming at month’s end, likening them to a political lynching.

After struggling over strategy for the last few days, lawyers Edward Genson, Sam Adam and son Sam Adam Jr. acknowledged they would not be present when the Senate begins weighing Blagojevich’s removal from office. The governor endorsed their move, the lawyers said.

Blagojevich’s other lawyers, Adam and Adam Jr., said they couldn’t in good conscience represent the governor in a Senate trial without due process of law, saying they refused to take part in a “Potemkin-like lynching proceeding.”

The younger Adam said the legal team had considered filing a motion calling themselves ineffective because of the Senate rules, but eventually decided not to appear at all.

Though the decision raised the possibility that the governor won’t have an attorney as the proceedings begin, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said he still planned to start the trial Jan. 26 as scheduled.

“He can get another lawyer. He’s a lawyer himself,” Cullerton said. “If he chooses to not have a lawyer, that’s up to him.”

The governor is not expected to attend the hearing, but Blagojevich would be considered to have pleaded not guilty under the Senate’s rules, Cullerton said.

Genson, who recently complained bitterly before a House impeachment panel that he was “fighting shadows” as he defended Blagojevich, said he would not file an appearance with the Senate as scheduled. Genson said the inability to call witnesses—or to know the identities of some parties in alleged pay-to-play schemes at the center of the accusations against Blagojevich—makes it impossible to defend him.

The lawyers said one rule states that the House impeachment record is admitted as evidence as the Senate trial begins, a record the Blagojevich defense contends they could not properly challenge or question. The rules say nothing about the burden of proof either, Adam Jr. said.

Cullerton defended the rules, saying they mirror those used in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, who was acquitted.

“Impeachments are very rare, and convictions are even rarer,” Cullerton said.


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