Reporting with Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch
Perhaps nearing the conclusion of his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner again tackles what has been a key idea of the defense -- that Rod Blagojevich was unsuccessful in carrying out any of the alleged schemes and is therefore not guilty.
Niewoehner takes the allegations surrounding Jesse Jackson Jr. as an example. He argues that even if the ex-governor didn't really plan to appoint the congressman to a vacant Senate seat, he is still guilty of trying to accept a bribe of $6 million in campaign cash from his supporters.
"What is bribery?" Niewoehner asks the jury. He says a key point is that the bribery can be "indirect" -- "It does not have to be 'x' for 'y.'"
"You do not have to say to (Jackson supporter) Raghu Nayak, 'I will give you a Senate seat only if you give me $1 million," he says. "People do not talk that way. You flip $1 million on the table, wink and say 'I'd like to be senator.' Is there any doubt what you mean?"
The government doesn't have to show that Blagojevich actually intended to appoint Jackson, Niewoehner says -- just that he tried to convince Jackson's supporters that he did, so they would give him the money.
"These bribe attempts don't have to work. Attempts are fine," Niewoehner says.
"Again, you don't have to be a successful criminal to be a criminal," he tells them.
Niewoehner then goes through each type of charge and explains the elements of wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery. He points to specific evidence that he believes supports each count.
Rod Blagojevich's youngest daughter, Annie, was back in the courtroom. Patti Blagojevich was holding the small seven year old, who was looking over her mom's shoulder. Annie looked like she was trying to keep busy by staring at the courtroom sketch artists.
Niewoehner was still talking when Judge James Zagel cut in around 12:30. "Lunch has arrived," he said, and called a one-hour break.