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Judge Threatens Blago Lawyer With Contempt

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Judge Threatens Blago Lawyer With Contempt

AP

Attorney for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Sam Adam Jr. talks to members of the media at the Federal Court building, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, in Chicago after his defense rested without calling any witnesses. Blagojevich is accused of scheming to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain.

Just when you thought the Rod Blagojevich case could not get any weirder... On Monday, it sort of did.

Defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. became so irate at a ruling by trial Judge James Zagel that he declared he would risk jail rather than comply. And the judge immediately made clear that he was perfectly willing to make sure Adam saw the inside of the federal lockup.

At issue was Adam's announced intention that he intended to argue to the jury, that the government had failed to call hot-button witnesses like convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko and admitted swindler Stuart Levine, because they would actually harm the government's case and reinforce the former governor's innocence. Zagel warned Adam that he had already ruled he could not make such an argument, but the Blagojevich attorney persisted.

"I'm willing to go to jail for this your honor," he said. "I cannot follow your order on this!"

"You will follow the order, or I will cite you with contempt!" Zagel snapped.

He called a halt to the proceedings for the day and suggested that Adam needed to "reconstitute" his planned argument. And if he can't? Zagel said that perhaps it would be appropriate for someone else to argue the former governor's case.

"It doesn't do your client any good to have his lawyer held in contempt," he said.

The argument goes like this: the government had bombshell witnesses -- namely Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine -- who they never called. That must mean they were bad for the government's case.

Not always. Prosecutors fail to call witnesses for any manner of reasons. And the law is fairly clear that no inference is to be made about what they might have said. Plus, Zagel observed, if Adam felt so strongly that Rezko and Levine would have been good for his case, he could have called them himself.

All of the attorneys have been instructed to show up 45 minutes early Tuesday morning, to hash the entire matter out, but Zagel made crystal clear how he intends for it to end.

"If my ruling is as erroneous as you think it is," he said, "you have other remedies."

Blagojevich and his brother, Robert Blagojevich, have pleaded not guilty in an alleged scheme to sell the Senate seat Obama gave up when he was elected president, and plotting to illegally pressure people for campaign contributions.

The government began its closing arguments with a simple idea: even though the former governor was an inept crook, he was still a crook.

Developments from the courtroom:

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