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Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Blago Defense Lawyer: Ex-Gov ‘Runs the Show’

“Quite frankly, it’s [Blagojevich’s] case, and it’s the high stakes that he’s facing, so he certainly runs the show on many of these things,” says Aaron Goldstein, the youngest—and arguably the most effective—member of Blago’s defense team.

I wrote recently about Aaron Goldstein, the least known—but arguably the most effective—member of Rod Blagojevich’s defense team. A graduate of Lane Tech High School, the U of I, and the University of Iowa’s law school, the 35-year-old former Cook County public defender rents space in the South Ellis Avenue offices of the more renowned Blago lawyers Sam Adam Jr. and Sr. Before joining the Blago defense a year ago, Goldstein represented clients in trouble with the law, often meeting them for the first time at the police station after their arrest.

I talked to Goldstein again over the weekend. He was working—as he has virtually every weekend for the last year. The prosecution rested its case last week, and Goldstein and his colleagues are now frantically preparing to put on their defense. Here, an edited transcript of our conversation

CF: When you meet to plot strategy, is Rod Blagojevich in the room?
AG: We have been meeting with Rod for some time now, practically every day.

CF: How do you and your fellow defense lawyers reach consensus on who’s going to examine whom—and who’s going to question Blagojevich?
AG:
Quite frankly, it’s [Blagojevich’s] case, and it’s the high stakes that he’s facing, so he certainly runs the show on many of these things. The governor’s input is crucial to us. There are moments when the governor wants a certain way of doing things, and we agree with it and go forward that way.

CF: When you’re not talking about the case, what might you talk about?
AG: Rod has a million stories to tell.

CF: Is there a story you can share with me?
AG: We’ve heard a lot of [Speaker of the Illinois House Michael] Madigan stories… [Blago’s] difficulties with Madigan.

CF: Whom are you preparing to question this week?
AG: We’re still formulating who’s coming on and who’s not. Obviously the big one is the governor. We’re working on scheduling the more prominent people and still trying to get everyone in a particular slot.

CF: Are Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, or Harry Reid likely to testify? If so, are you having trouble with the logistics, figuring out when they can get to Chicago?
AG: There are logistics problems, and, yeah, right now we are expecting them to testify. There are a lot of names [who will testify] that aren’t really big names, they’re people who work in government.

[Adam Jr., announced Monday morning that Jarrett will not be called to testify because she would not advance the defense’s case. I asked Goldstein if others we’ve heard less about—such as Roland Burris, Patrick Quinn, Richard Daley, and Richard Mell—would testify, and he said no to each.]

CF: In meetings with Blagojevich, how is he alike and different from the person we hear on the tapes?
AG: I have now known the governor for over a year and I love the guy. I think he cares about people. He’s a good human being, and most importantly an innocent guy. I know he cusses, and I think it would be better for all of us not to be cussing, but I don’t think that takes away in any way from what kind of person he is.

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