Reporting with Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch
Robert Blagojevich, the one-time head of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund, did not mix politics and fund-raising, his lawyer said as the defense began presenting its two-pronged closing arguments this afternoon.
Michael Ettinger, the defense attorney for the ex-governor's brother, described Robert Blagojevich as a "person of honor, a person of character" during his four-month stint heading Rod Blagojevich's campaign fund.
Ettinger said Blagojevich gave up a successful business career in Tennessee in 2008 to help revive his brother's depleted campaign fund and to help lessen tensions with his brother - and was unaware of any illegal activity.
Ettinger dwelt on Robert Blagojevich's background in the military and business and raising funds for the YMCA and the Red Cross. Initially, he was reticent about answering his brother's call for help running his struggling fund-raising operation.
"Robert didn't want to do it, but he did. When Robert gives a commitment to do something, he keeps his word," Ettinger said.
"He did not come here to bribe. He did not come here to extort. He came here to fund-raise," Ettinger continued.
"The reason he did it was to repair the fractured relationship between brothers," Ettinger said. "That's the main reason he came up here. It was to help his brother in need."
Ettinger is pacing as he talks. He has his hands folded over his stomach and has a nervous tick where he nods his head after every other sentence.
Still, he is getting chuckles from the gallery and from Rod, as he pokes fun at his own lack of commitment to the military when compared to Robert's and at Rod Blagojevich's basketball skills.
Earlier, he got a chuckle from his client, too.
"Let's start in the 1950s," Ettinger said of Robert Blagojevich early on in his closing. "He graduated from Lane Tech."
Robert Blagojevich, who's 54, smiled over to others on his defense team at the date. He actually graduated decades later.