Rod Blagojevich's fiery attorney will assume center stage at his corruption trial Tuesday, when both the defense and prosecutors are set to give their version of events that saw the former governor charged with trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.
Sam Adam Jr., only in his mid-30s, already has gained a reputation as a theatrical courtroom orator whose shouting, whispering, table-pounding closing argument preceded R&B singer R. Kelly's acquittal on child pornography charges two years ago.
"Connect with the jury and tell the story," Adam told a reporter Monday about one of his guiding rules of good opening statements.
Brevity doesn't appear to be among the others. Adam told U.S. Judge James Zagel the opening statement he planned to deliver regarding the fraud and racketeering charges against Blagojevich could run two and a half hours.
The no-nonsense Zagel, who has given the impression in three days of jury selection that he doesn't want proceedings to drag on unnecessarily, responded that he would give Adam an hour and 45 minutes.
Prosecutors, in contrast, are expected to favor a just-the-facts-ma'am style — laying out their arguments to jurors as well as playing hours of wiretap recordings in cool, calm confidence.
They also expect to be comparatively succinct in their opening, telling Zagel they would need about an hour to address the 12 jurors and several alternates, who are expected to be seated Tuesday morning.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to trying to profit from his power to fill the Senate seat. He also denies that he plotted to turn his power as governor into a moneymaking scheme for himself and insiders.
His co-defendant — and brother — Robert Blagojevich, 54, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged plan to sell the Senate seat and plotting to illegally squeeze a racetrack owner for a hefty contribution to the Blagojevich campaign fund.
It was Adam's defense of R. Kelly that sent his stock soaring in legal circles. Jurors appeared rapt as they listened to his emotion-filled, apparently decisive closing. He banged on the jury's box with his fist, he laughed and pleaded for jurors to acquit his superstar client.
He said after court that he expected to be just as emotional and energetic in his opening statement for Blagojevich.
"I don't know anything else," he said. "I'll be sweating, I'll be moving."
That could offer a sharp contrast to federal prosecutor Carrie E. Hamilton, a cool and methodical veteran prosecutor who nevertheless opened the trial of Tony Rezko, one of Blagojevich's top fundraisers, memorably by describing him as "the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings." Rezko was convicted of fraud and other offenses.
Lead prosecutor Reid Schar told Zagel that defense attorneys have been telling reporters various theories of Blagojevich's defense that violate orders the judge has already issued limiting what jurors can be told. Such limits are normal and designed to ensure fairness.
Schar warned that if defense attorneys go over the line he will cut in immediately.
"If it heads in that direction, judge, obviously we will object," Schar said.
Over the last three days, Zagel and the attorneys have whittled away at the large jury pool, with Zagel dismissing potential jurors on a variety of grounds. About 50 candidates remain. Zagel said he plans to seat a jury Tuesday morning, with opening statements immediately afterward.
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