CHICAGO - A federal prosecutor began making final arguments Wednesday at the corruption retrial of Rod Blagojevich, telling jurors that the ousted Illinois governor lied to their faces for seven days on the witness stand.
Occasionally hitting her fist on a lectern as she spoke, government attorney Carrie Hamilton stepped to the center of the courtroom to address the panelists who have sat through six weeks of testimony.
"The defendant lied to you under oath in this courtroom," she said, countering Blagojevich's own first words to jurors that he was there "to tell you the truth."
Several times, Hamilton pointed across the room at Blagojevich, who appeared upset, shaking his head, looking down at the defense table, or leaning over to whisper to his attorneys. His wife, Patti, sat nearby occasionally furrowing her brow, her brother's arm around her shoulder.
The prosecutor also referred back to oaths Blagojevich took as governor that he would fulfill his duties honestly and according to the law.
"What you have learned in court at this trial is that time and time again, the defendant violated that oath," Hamilton said. "He used his powers as governor to try to get things for him."
Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 counts, including attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery. The most serious allegation is that he sought to sell or trade President Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. He is also accused of trying to shake down executives by threatening state decisions that would hurt their businesses.
Throughout, Hamilton likened Blagojevich to a corrupt traffic officer who would stop drivers and press them to hand over $50 to avoid a ticket. The mere act of an officer asking for money to tear up a ticket, Hamilton told jurors, is the crime. "The law focuses on the ask, not the receipt," she said.
The messages that Blagojevich allegedly sent to executives trying to squeeze them for donations, Hamilton said repeatedly, "is the policeman tapping at the window."
Hamilton also told jurors that when they deliberate, they should listen carefully to FBI wiretap recordings that underpinned much of the government's three-week case.
"It will make the defendant's guilt crystal clear," she said.
Jurors could start deliberating as soon as Thursday afternoon, depending on the length of closing arguments by both sides.
Attorneys for Blagojevich rested their case earlier in the day after calling defense witnesses that included a former congressman, a former state budget office employee, and an FBI agent. Prosecutors then called rebuttal witnesses, including two Canadian building executives and two FBI agents.
In the retrial, the prosecution called about 15 witnesses - about half the number as in the ousted governor's first trial. Prosecutors asked them fewer questions and rarely strayed onto topics not directly related to the charges.
Blagojevich's first trial ended with a hung jury, with the panel agreeing on a single count: that he lied to the FBI about how involved he was in fund-raising as governor. He repeatedly insisted he would testify, but he never did.