“Talking is a crime,” Chris Niewoehner told the jury in his closing argument. Niewoehner’s close wrapped up the government’s case by saying the heart of the case was Blagojevich’s attempt to exchange a state benefit for a personal benefit, including campaign contributions. For the first time, the government clearly spelled out why asking for campaign contributions in the Blagojevich case is a crime. If the request for a contribution is linked to a specific government action, it is a crime. For instance, in the Children’s Memorial case, Niewoehner contends Blagojevich made a direct connection between increasing doctor’s reimbursements and the request for a $25,000 campaign contribution. The scheme does not have to succeed, but substantial steps have to be taken to further the crime. When Blagojevich directed his staff or his brother to make phone calls to Children’s Memorial, or to Gerald Krozel from the road builders, or John Johnston from the horse racing industry asking for campaign contributions, that phone call furthered the crime because all were hoping for favorable state action.
The trial broke for lunch at 12:30. Niewoehner will continue his closing argument when court resumes.