Why didn't Rod Blagojevich testify?

After long promising he'd testify at his trial, the former Illinois governor ultimately declined to take the stand. Here are five theories why

Why isn't Blagojevich talking?
(Image credit: Getty)

For months, ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had vowed to testify and clear his name at his corruption trial. But on Wednesday Blagojevich made a surprise, 11th-hour decision not to take the stand. Now, after closing arguments next week, jurors will decide whether he is guilty of a list of crimes that includes trying to sell President Obama's old Senate seat. Why didn't Blagojevich, a Democrat, defend himself in court? Here are five theories:

1. Blago didn't think he needed to testify

Outside the courtroom, Rod Blagojevich offered a rationale: His lawyers believe the audiotapes the government used as evidence proved that he's mostly being accused of plotting crimes that never happened. "I never took a corrupt dollar," he said. Besides, he added, the case has taught him a lot. "The biggest lesson I've learned is that I talk too much." (Watch Blagojevich's statement.)

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2. It was too dangerous to let prosecutors cross-examine him

Over the six weeks of testimony, the prosecution played dozens of secretly recorded phone calls in which Blagojevich bluntly discussed trying to benefit from state business, including getting money or a Cabinet position in exchange for the appointment to Obama's former Senate seat. Blagojevich’s brother, reports The New York Times, did testify, and faced a grueling cross-examination over those conversations. Legal experts figure defense lawyers didn't want Blagojevich in such a spot.

3. The defense likes its odds as they are

Seasoned defense lawyers say one way to interpret Blagojevich's silence is as a sign of confidence from his legal team. Northwestern University law professor Ronald Allen, quoted in The Christian Science Monitor, says that might mean they think they've already won.

4. Blagojevich wouldn't have been able to control himself

Criminal-defense attorney Joseph Lopez told The Wall Street Journal it was the right move because Blagojevich is "a loose cannon." Lopez conjures the following scenario: "They’ll ask, 'What did you mean when you said (expletive) the people of Illinois?' How's he going to answer that? He'll get creamed."

5. Despite his bluster, the man's a coward

Rod Blagojevich "rose from mediocrity on the strength of his blustery self-regard and boyish charm," says Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune. But he knows he comes off poorly "under the least pressure" — look at the way he "hemmed and hawed" when Donald Trump asked him a few pointed questions on Celebrity Apprentice.

Sources: Boston Globe, NY Times, Christian Science Monitor, Wall St. Journal, Chicago Tribune

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