CHICAGO — Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich rested their case Wednesday at his corruption retrial after calling witnesses that included a former congressman to follow the ousted Illinois governor himself.

Blagojevich was the star witness of the defense's three-week presentation, wrapping up his testimony a day earlier and fulfilling a promise he made before his first trial that he would testify.

As they drew down their case earlier Wednesday, the defense called former Congressman Bill Lipinski, who spoke fondly of the twice-elected governor sitting across the courtroom.

"I see him over there," said the 73-year-old, pointing at a visibly pleased Blagojevich, nodding his head approvingly. "He's got that great smile on his face as usual."

The defense called Lipinski to counter potentially damaging testimony from U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr., who said Lipinski once asked him to make a $25,000 donation to Blagojevich's campaign for governor in 2002.

Jackson, who was called to the stand by the defense earlier, told jurors under cross-examination that Blagojevich made clear he'd passed Jackson's wife over for a state job because Jackson hadn't given him the money.

During their case, the defense called just six witnesses, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Before closing arguments were slated to begin, prosecutors called several rebuttal witnesses, including two road-building executives to address charges that Blagojevich tried to shake down a third executive.

But defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky pressed one of those government witnesses, Richard Olsen, about whether Blagojevich ever squeezed him during a 2008 meeting.

His voice rising, Sorosky asked Olsen, "Not once did the governor ever say, 'If you want my help, you gotta make a contribution, right?" Olsen agreed Blagojevich had not.

As proceedings got under way Wednesday, Blagojevich appeared relaxed, joking during breaks with spectators or sliding over on his chair to speak with his wife, Patti.

The kind words about Blagojevich from Lipinski on Wednesday were a rare moment of praise for him from a witness.

Prosecutors called around 15 witnesses in their three-week, sharply streamlined presentation — half the number they called at the first trial. Most painted a picture of Blagojevich as slippery and greedy.

Under a grueling cross-examination, Blagojevich, who testified for seven days, occasionally became flustered. But he repeatedly denied trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat or attempting to shake down executives for campaign cash.

Prosecutors were expected to start delivering their closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, followed by the defense. Jurors could start deliberating as soon as Thursday afternoon, depending on the length of closing arguments.

In his testimony, Blagojevich argued that his talk captured on FBI wiretaps was merely brainstorming, and that he never took the schemes seriously or decided to carry them out. And though the judge barred such arguments, Blagojevich claimed he'd believed his conversations were legal and part of common political discourse.

Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 counts, including attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery. The most serious allegation is that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat in exchange for a high-paying job or campaign cash. He's also accused to trying to shake down executives by threatening state decisions that would hurt their businesses.

His first trial last year ended with a hung jury, the panel agreeing on a single count — that Blagojevich lied to the FBI about how involved he was in fundraising as governor.

Before the initial trial, Blagojevich repeatedly insisted he would speak directly to jurors, but he never did. His lawyers rested without calling a single witness.


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