For the defense: Sam Adam Jr.

Sam Adam Jr., defense lawyer for Rod Blagojevich, leaves the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. While cross-examining Blagojevich friend Alonzo Monk, Adam drew a host of objections from a prosecutor. At one point, the prosecutor stood to object even before Adam asked a question. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / June 15, 2010)

The objections from a prosecutor came almost as fast and furiously as the questions from defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr.

Almost.

Adam was working hard to keep witness Alonzo "Lon" Monk on the ropes, and he paraded back and forth between a lectern in the courtroom where former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is on trial and a space just in front of Monk, who had accused Blagojevich of being part of a conspiracy to trade the powers of his office for campaign cash.

Monk couldn't recall a lot of detail about a meeting he and Blagojevich supposedly had participated in to talk about the illegal plans, and Adam didn't want to give him a break. Over and over, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner objected to the form of Adam's questions as argumentative.

But Adam was playing to the jury, and he had the floor.

What was the first corrupt plan that fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko had listed, Adam demanded. Monk said he couldn't recall.

So the meeting was the first time in his adult life Monk had agreed to commit a political crime, yet "you can't remember the first one?" Adam asked incredulously. Offered Monk: "They were just ideas."

"And you can't even tell us the first one?" Adam pressed again.

"I don't remember," Monk acknowledged.

Adam's high-octane, confrontational style is much more at home at Chicago's Criminal Courts Building, where he came up as a lawyer, and it sometimes seemed out of place Tuesday at the more sedate federal court.

At one point, Niewoehner stood to object before Adam even asked a question, and the defense lawyer pretended to be startled. "Fine, I withdraw it," Adam said of the question he never asked.

Other times, U.S. District Judge James Zagel tried to shorten Adam's cross-examination by giving him pointers.

"Questions that start with the word 'but' are usually arguments, not questions," the judge advised. "Questions that start with the words 'you said' generally don't get you anywhere. I say this because it probably could reduce the length of the cross-examination by 10 percent."

Through all the sparring, Adam scored a few points, particularly as he focused on the fact that Monk could have faced a long prison term but was likely to serve only two years after cutting a plea deal for his testimony. And Adam also stressed that Monk, not Blagojevich, admitted taking cash under the table from Rezko, who was convicted in his own corruption trial in 2008.

Monk had remembered meeting with Rezko, Blagojevich and fundraiser Christopher Kelly at O'Hare International Airport and that Blagojevich asked Rezko if he was doing anything at the hospital board. Rezko had said no, according to Monk.

"He tells that to his alleged co-conspirator?" Adam asked sarcastically, drawing yet another objection from the government.

On a plan that allegedly saw Rezko take a kickback on a state pension deal, Monk had said Rezko was going to hold on to the funds until after Blagojevich left office. Adam said that didn't make sense either.

"You can't tell us the name on the account?" Adam asked Monk, who agreed. "You can't even tell us the state the account was held in?"

"What if Rezko dies?" Adam continued. "You don't know where the money is. What if Rezko is arrested? You can't get the money, can you?"

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