Sam Adam Jr. (right) with his client, Rod Blagojevich
Sam Adam Jr. (right) with his client, Rod Blagojevich



David Bernstein’s February 2008 look at how Blago went from golden boy to one of the most unpopular governors in history

Connecting the dots: Blago, Obama, Emanuel, and Axelrod

Carol Felsenthal’s November 2003 story from a time when things were going well for Rod

We commissioned  our readers to create a portrait of the disgraced chief executive, and they answered the call.

Sam Adam Jr., one of the lawyers defending Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges, has a plan for helping his client beat the rap: Let him blather.

"He’s a celebrity idiot, but he IS a celebrity,” Adam said. “That has a purpose to it, and the purpose is to get out here and yell, ‘I didn’t do it.’"

In “Mighty Mouth,” a revealing profile by Bryan Smith in the June issue of Chicago magazine, Adam offers clues to the defense strategy for the ex-governor’s trial, now scheduled to begin in early June. Adam is betting that by letting the public see firsthand that Blagojevich apparently says whatever comes into his head, Adam and his colleagues can argue that the things Blagojevich says on the extensive government tape recordings are little more than his typical claptrap—that the real crooks are those around him. “I think the jury will see that [Blagojevich] surrounded himself with people who would make him feel OK—to feed his need for acceptance,” Adam said.

The defense approach is unusual, to say the least. “[Adam] is doing things that are absolutely unheard of in a public corruption case,” said the former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins. “The first rule that most lawyers have for their clients is ‘Keep your mouth shut.’ In this case, it’s as if [Blagojevich is] being told to keep his mouth open as much as he can.”

Collins added: “There are people who would say it’s stupid—I think it’s definitely unconventional—but I have little doubt that it’s being done very strategically.”

In any case, Adam said, reining in Blagojevich would never work. “I can’t. But you’re going to see when he testifies. He’s truly funny—totally self-absorbed but truly funny. He’s also one of the most insecure people I’ve ever met. It’s such a strange dynamic.”

Like his client, Adam has a flamboyant streak, and he’s found remarkable success as a criminal defense lawyer by following a basic rule: “A jury trial is a show, nothing but a show,” Adam said. “He who puts on the best show, he who entertains the most, he who can bring [his] point in the most effective way, wins. Hands down.”

Read Bryan Smith’s complete story on Sam Adam Jr. and his notorious client in the June issue of Chicago magazine, on sale on newsstands May 20th.


Photograph: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune