Governor Blago’s Pit Bull’s Tactics

-By John Armor

Governor Rod Blagojevich has announced that he is going to “fight until I take my last breath,” in an effort to avoid impeachment by the Illinois legislature. But his first defense tactic came not from the Governor himself, but from his high-priced pit bull (excuse me, defense counsel). Criminal defense expert Ed Genson has attacked the Members of the Illinois House for even thinking about using the tapes made by federal agents on which the Governor, in foul-mouthed tirades, demanded bribes be paid to him or his wife, in return for his appointment of Barack Obama’s replacement in the US Senate.

What did Ed Genson say was wrong with the tapes? Did he deny that Governor Blago said what was on those tapes? No. Did he deny that the foul-mouhed demands made by Blago amount to the sale of his services as Governor for cash and other benefits? No. Did he deny that if Blago did this, he is unfit to remain as Governor of Illinois? No.

Attorney Genson said that use of the tapes by the Illinois House as part of the impeachment process would be “unconstitutional,” and therefore they shouldn’t use that evidence.

Allow me to explain something about lawyers who specialize in criminal defense law. I recall the career of Racehorse Hanes, the Texas lawyer who got many well-heeled defendants off from serious charges. He had a wall in his office which displayed the murder weapons of his “innocent” clients..

Racehorse was one of the best of the best, or worst of the worst, depending on how you look at it. His job was not to uphold the Constitution, nor see to it that truth prevailed in the courtroom. Like all criminal defense attorneys in most of their cases, his job was to defeat the charges and get his client off, using whatever means might lead to that preferred and well-paid result.

Hold that thought, and let’s consider the opening tactic of Ed Genson in defending Governor Blago, first from impeachment and later from criminal charges. Can the incriminating tapes possibly be unconstitutional when used for impeachment purposes?

I’m certain that either Gerson or some on his ample and well-paid staff are aware of the impeachment challenge that US District Judge Alcee Hastings made against his impeachment, conviction and removal from the federal bench for taking bribes from major drug dealers for lighter sentences.

Hastings objected to his impeachment on grounds of “double jeopardy” because he had already beaten the rap in criminal court (excuse me, he was found not guilty of bribery) and therefore he could not be “tried” again for the same charge. Judge Hastings’ acquittal was a bit of a surprise, since the man who paid him the bribe was convicted of paying the bribe, but that’s a story for another day.

The Supreme Court patiently explained, in rejecting Judge Hastings’ claim, that impeachment is a civil matter. Double jeopardy applies only in criminal matters. Therefore, his impeachment was constitutional.

Apply that Supreme Court case to Governor Blago’s claim that the tapes were “unconstitutionally” obtained. That’s a criminal case argument. It has no application to his civil impeachment process. Genson is counting on the Illinois legislators and their advisors in the Attorney General’s office to be ignorant of the Hastings case, which blows Genson’s constitutional claim out of the water,

Or, he is trying to prejudice a future jury by making a claim that sounds possible, but is false on its face. And, he is counting on an ignorant press to report the claim as if it had any possible validity.

I’ve spent decades dealing with state legislators, assistant attorneys general and members of the press, in more than half of the states in the union. Anyone counting on constitutional ignorance among those groups has a real chance of success, regardless of the truth of the matter, or the honest law of the matter.

Whatever happened to Judge Hastings, I hear you cry? He was impeached, removed as a US judge, then ran for Congress. He was elected and repeatedly reelected, so he is now the formerly-Honorable, Honorable Member of Congress from Florida. Impeached public officials can rise from the dead to bedevil the body politic again.

Blagojevich is young, aggressive, and will do anything to obtain power. He’ll need to be watched even after he is, deservedly, thrown out of the Illinois Governor’s Mansion.
John Armor is a graduate of Yale, and Maryland Law School, and has 33 years practice at law in the US Supreme Court. Mr. Armor has authored seven books and over 750 articles. Armor happily lives on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge. He can be reached at:

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