R. Kelly's Lawyers May Become Blagojevich's Legal Team
CHICAGO (AP) -- A father-and-son team of lawyers whose courtroom theatrics captured the spotlight at the trial of R&B singer R. Kelly hinted Monday they may come aboard the defense team of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"He's a wonderful man, I'm very, very fond of him," Samuel E. Adam said, referring to the impeached former governor now accused of racketeering and fraud. Adam and his father, legendary Chicago criminal defense attorney Sam Adam, said they were involved in talks that could make them part of the Blagojevich team.
Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to charges that he schemed to sell or trade President Obama's U.S. Senate seat and used the muscle of the governor's office to pressure companies with state business to make campaign contributions.
There has been speculation for months that the two Adams would become part of Blagojevich's defense team - a team that so far hasn't taken shape, even though the ousted governor has been under indictment for months.
Although the younger Adam represented Blagojevich during his impeachment proceedings, Monday was the first time the two Adams appeared at a Blagojevich federal court hearing. They even sat among the spectators, declining to come forward when the case was called and make a firm commitment.
They said they had to talk first with Sheldon Sorosky, a Blagojevich friend who thus far is the only lawyer committed to representing the former governor.
Samuel E. Adam, known universally as "Sam Jr.," attracted the spotlight at the Kelly trial with an emotional closing argument in which he yelled, whispered, laughed and pounded on the jury box. Kelly was acquitted of all charges.
Sorosky has been saying a lack of money has been a problem in getting lawyers to join the team. But Sam Jr. scoffed at that notion.
"I'd be thrilled to be in the case," he told reporters.
"I just want enough to buy my dad a new suit of clothes," he cracked as his father stood nearby in his familiar rumpled state.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, Sorosky will be allowed to tap the $2.3 million Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund to pay legal expenses. But lawyers may bill no more than the maximum allowed for government-appointed attorneys - $110 an hour, far below the amount that topflight criminal defense lawyers usually get. Such big-name attorneys often charge flat fees but when computed as hourly rates, they can range up to $700 or more.
Sorosky says Blagojevich doesn't have the money to pay lawyers otherwise.
As part of the deal, U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel on Monday limited Blagojevich to three attorneys at his trial plus a number of contract lawyers who would probably get less money to help wade through 3 million documents and 500 hours of FBI wiretaps.
Sorosky asked if Zagel would consider increasing the number of trial attorneys to four. Zagel said he might allow a fourth attorney if that person was needed to supervise the contract attorneys.
The question of which attorneys will be representing Blagojevich is serious enough that prosecutors asked Zagel to schedule a special hearing June 1 at which the former governor is expected to be questioned about the subject.
Zagel has previously questioned whether Blagojevich is focused enough on the case, given the seriousness of the charges which could send him to prison for years.
One of Chicago's top defense attorneys, Edward M. Genson, had been Blagojevich's lawyer but resigned from the case and implied that the ousted governor wouldn't listen to his advice. That seemed to coincide with the development of a warm relationship between Blagojevich and Sam Sr. The elder Adam had been close friends with Genson for 40 years.
While Sam Jr. got the lion's share of publicity in the Kelly case, Genson was generally regarded as the true mastermind of the defense that led to the acquittal.