Blagojevich Looking For New Lawyers As Indictment Looms
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is still forming his legal defense team with no certainty about who will lead it two months after his arrest on fraud and bribery charges, his brother's attorney said Monday.
Michael Ettinger said he and another defense attorney met Saturday with Edward M. Genson, who announced Jan. 23 he was withdrawing as Blagojevich's lawyer. The meeting ended with Genson still not back on the team, Ettinger said.
Federal prosecutors have until April 7 to obtain an indictment against Blagojevich, who was arrested Dec. 9 on corruption charges that include trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois House a month after his arrest and removed from office by the state Senate on Jan 29.
Genson, who won renown in defending R&B star R. Kelly and former newspaper baron Conrad Black, dropped out of the case days before Blagojevich embarked on a New York media blitz to declare his innocence. Blagojevich acknowledged that Genson told him not to do it.
"I've been practicing law for 44 years. I never require a client to do what I say, but I do require them to at least listen to what I say," Genson said at the time.
Genson declined to comment on the status of the governor's legal team when reached by phone Monday.
Ettinger represents the governor's brother, Robert Blagojevich, who headed the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund. Robert Blagojevich has not been charged.
Ettinger said he still held out hope after Saturday's meeting that Genson might return but wasn't counting on it.
"We want to have Eddie, but we don't," Ettinger said. "So we have to move on."
After talking with Genson, Ettinger and the other Blagojevich lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky, moved on to a luncheon meeting with veteran defense attorney Sam Adam. After that, he and Sorosky talked with the former governor about the possible members of his defense team, he said.
Blagojevich has met repeatedly with Adam, and attorneys say the former governor became attached to the flamboyant attorney and considered him his lawyer. But Adam has thus far not filed a formal appearance in the case.
Adam and Genson have worked together on a number of major cases - R. Kelly included - for many years. But a chill has set in recently. Adam said in a recent interview he had no problem with Blagojevich airing his case on television.
The problem worsened right after Genson announced that he would withdraw. Adam was approached by a television crew and asked why Genson had dropped out.
Adam pointed to his head and said: "Cuckoo."
Adam said afterward he was only joking and imitating Mayor Richard M. Daley, who had said earlier that Blagojevich was "cuckoo." But Genson wasn't laughing.
"We want Sam in the case," Ettinger said. "He is involved. But we don't know at this point the extent of his commitment."
Repeated calls to Adam's office and personal cell phone Monday resulted in busy signals.
Ettinger said there has been agreement that attorneys James Graham and Judith Dobkin would represent the Friends of Rod Blagojevich. He said Sorosky and Adam would continue to represent Blagojevich and Alan Brunell would now join the team. But he didn't rule out adding other attorneys to the list.
In addition to the Senate seat allegations, Blagojevich is charged with scheming to use his powers as governor to squeeze businesses for campaign money and pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers who were calling for his impeachment.