High-profile lawyer wants out of Blago case

January 14, 2010 2:52:59 PM PST
Citing a rift between lawyers defending accused racketeer and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the ABC7 I-Team has learned that famous Chicago attorney Allan A. Ackerman wants off the case. In a motion filed in Chicago federal court on Thursday, Mr. Ackerman "seeks permission to withdraw as one of the attorneys for Rod Blagojevich." Ackerman says "philosophical differences have developed between moving counsel and others representing Rod Blagojevich. Hence, Attorney Ackerman is no longer able to stridently participate in the defense of the accused."

In an interview, Ackerman told the I-Team that he had differences with the other lawyers on Blagojevich's case concerning the "means and methods" of preparing for a "complex, multi-count trial."

Ackerman said that several pre-trial motions he drafted on Blagojevich's behalf late last year, were "vetoed" by other lawyers on the case and never filed.

Mr. Ackerman joined the defense team last November during a period of relative calm with Mr. Blagojevich. The group he joined at the time consisted of father and son attorneys Sam Adam Jr. and Sr. and Chicago lawyer Sheldon Sorosky.

Ackerman, known for his deliberate-albeit razor sharp courtroom examinations-said that the other lawyers on the case "don't understand my approach and I am not about to have disputes with people I like."

Nevertheless, he cast doubt on the team's ability to recognize that " the level of devotion that has to be given to the law and the facts and pretrial preparation is significant."

"Pretrial motions must be filed to advance your clients cause. I understand this" Ackerman told the I-Team. "Others academically understand, but don't know how to do it."

If Blago is viewed as "bonkers," it won't hurt case

He denied that the fissure between lawyers resulted from having a client whose thirst for public attention seems unquenchable.

Mr. Blagojevich, in violation of the generally accepted rules of conduct for criminal defendants, has chosen to speak frequently and at times without much thought-according to his own admission.

He has written a book, hosts a regular radio talk show, has appeared on numerous television shows and most recently had to make a public apology for comments made in an Esquire magazine article.

In the magazine piece, Blagojevich claimed to be "blacker than Barack Obama" because he used to work as a shoe shiner.

In an apology and admission that he shouldn't have said it, Blagojevich told reporters: "What I said was stupid, stupid, stupid."

"That really is not anything I think is going to help or hurt him," Ackerman said of the oddball public outbursts by Blagojevich. "If people want to think he's bonkers, well then that's what they will think. Whatever he has to say won't help him or hurt him."

Ackerman said that "the role of counsel as constitutionally demanded is to do what is necessary to represent a client in preparation for trial. Younger lawyers-don't have wealth of experience and federal knowledge to get to the points of law to be presented on behalf of accused in advance of trial".

While the cowboy-attired Ackerman is asking to be relieved of his duties in the Blagojevich case, a new attorney is joining the team. Michael Gillespie, the son of veteran Chicago criminal defenseman Terry Gillespie, was added to the Blagojevich roster according to court records.