Ed Genson


Breaking news from the Chicago Tribune’s Web site:

Edward Genson, the lead attorney for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said he intends to withdraw as the governor’s lawyer in the criminal case.

Genson, who has been practicing law for 44 years, made a brief statement to reporters after a hearing this afternoon in federal court, where a judge had just ruled that four undercover recordings of the governor from the criminal investigation could be turned over to the state legislature.

“I never require a client to do what I say,” said Genson, who was accompanied by fellow Blagojevich lawyer Sheldon Sorosky. “But I do require them to at least listen.”

“I wish the governor good luck and Godspeed,” he added.

Asked about the status of the $500,000 that records show he has been paid from Blagojevich campaign funds, Genson said:

“The answer to that is that it’s none of your guys’ business.”

Genson would have to file paperwork to formally withdraw from the case.

It seems Genson doesn’t agree with Blagojevich’s tactic of blitzing the media with “woe as me” whining about not being able to get a fair trial in the Illinois Senate. The embattled governor claims Senate rules don’t allow him to call witnesses to testify on his behalf. Yet the only reason that is true is because Blagojevich ignored deadlines to submit his witness wish list.

In addition to two Chicago radio interviews, Blagojevich pleaded his case today in another ridiculous press conference, during which he made an Old West analogy instead of resorting to poetry as usual. Cowboy Rod said his accusers are “hanging me” so they can raise income and gasoline sales taxes after he is removed from office. Then he amusingly called for newspaper editorial boards to help convince the Senate to allow him to call witnesses during his impeachment trial, which begins Monday. Never mind that Blagojevich doesn’t plan to attend the trial or that he ignored deadlines to submit the names of potential witnesses. The pleading for help from editorial boards is so incredulous because Blagojevich is accused of scheming to get Chicago Tribune editorial board writers fired.

That scheme was among several revealed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald after the governor’s Dec. 9 arrest. Blagojevich allegedly is heard talking about it on covert FBI recordings of his telephone conversations. He also is accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat (now occupied by Roland Burris) to the highest bidder. I assume these schemes will be heard on the four recordings being released to state legislators for use during the impeachment trial. An FBI special agent also will provide limited testimony against the governor.

So it isn’t surprising to me that Genson finally gave up on Blagojevich. Genson is a high-powered attorney who knows a lost cause when he sees it. He probably also figures to never get all of his attorney fees from the soon-to-be broke Blagojevich family. The governor and his wife, Patti, are racking up so much debt in attorney fees right now, they will need to write an $11 million-advance book to pay it all off.

But Genson shouldn’t think he is out of the filthy Blagojevich bathwater yet. He may think the $500,000 he got from Blagojevich campaign funds is not the media’s business, but he is wrong. Taxpayers deserve to know why he received that money from campaign funds.

Taxpayers also deserve a better governor. We’re ready for the Pat Quinn era to begin. Is it too much to hope the Senate will kick Blagojevich out of office by the end of the month?

“I can’t wait to begin to tell my side of the story and to address you guys and, most importantly, the people of Illinois. That’s who I’m dying to talk to.”

When I heard Blagojevich make that comment to reporters yesterday, my first thought was, You’re the governor, you can talk to the people of Illinois anytime you want.

Of course, I realize Blagojevich was “lawyering up” to avoid incriminating himself further while coming up with a defense against the vast corruption allegations he faces.

Nonetheless, Blagojevich may break his silence tomorrow, the 10th day since his arrest. I can’t wait to hear what excuse he came up with. A hint may have been dropped today by the governor’s lawyer, Ed Genson (who sounds eerily like Joe Lieberman, the independent U.S. senator from Connecticut), who claimed the federal wiretaps that recorded Blagojevich discussing pay-to-play schemes were obtained illegally.

I highly doubt U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI recorded Blagojevich illegally, but I suppose anything is possible when it comes to technicalities of the law as applied to the rich and powerful. “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” as former President Bill Clinton once said.

In any case, it is clear from the tapes that Blagojevich is in the wrong and deserves to be booted from office. What really ticks me off about him now is his steadfast refusal to resign and stop wasting taxpayer dollars. But obviously Blagojevich suddenly feels compelled to become a workaholic – probably so he can get paid to shred evidence and do some last-minute scheming. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is vigorously working on a plea agreement proposal, something outrageous like he will resign if charges aren’t brought against him. Blagojevich is probably just crazy enough to try something like that.

Today Blagojevich reportedly reviewed the clemency petitions of about 60 convicted felons. It probably is a priority for him to make sure he hands out “get out of jail free” cards to everyone whom he promised them, so nobody crooked comes after him with a pair of brass knuckles – or worse – after he inevitably leaves office.