Attorney Sam Adam Jr.

Attorney Sam Adam Jr. in 2010. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune)

A North Side man was charged Wednesday with trying to extort prominent Chicago defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. by offering to refuse to testify against a man Adam was representing in exchange for $5,000.

Eric. C. Hays, 41, was caught on a government recording talking about the bribe and accepting what he thought was a cash payment from Adam, according to sources. Hays, of the 2300 block of West Farragut Avenue, was charged with one count of bribery, punishable by up to 7 years in prison.

Adam said he contacted the Cook County state's attorney's office after receiving multiple calls from Hays detailing the offer.

"I wasn't going to put up with it, and my client wasn't going to put up with it," Adam said in a phone interview. "And we have good state's attorneys who weren't going to put up with it either."

Best known for his impassioned defenses of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and R&B star R. Kelly, Adam was representing Derrick M. Claiborne, 35, on charges he bought a used Cadillac from Hays with a phony $9,000 cashier's check.

Prosecutors, who in outlining their case did not name Adam, said Hays started calling the attorney involved with the case, his clerk and others in his office this month offering to drop his testimony in exchange for cash. Adam confirmed he was the attorney.

"During these calls, the defendant indicated that for a sum of $5,000, he would make sure that the case against Claiborne did not proceed," prosecutors said in a court filing. "Two of these calls resulted in the defendant leaving messages on the attorney's voicemail."

On Tuesday evening, Adam agreed to meet Hays at the attorney's South Side office, where an investigator with the state's attorney's office recorded Hays repeating the offer, then accepting the cash, according to prosecutors.

The charges of forgery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle were dropped against Claiborne when he appeared Wednesday before Judge Vincent Gaughan. He is still awaiting trial on unrelated charges of delivery of heroin and aggravated battery of a police officer.

A longtime fixture at the Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California, Adam was part of the team that defended Blagojevich in his first corruption trial in 2010, which ended with the jury hung on all but one count.

"This was an obvious setup of my client, and this was a guy who was trying to take advantage of the system and take advantage of us," Adam said.

Hays was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bond Wednesday by Judge Ramon Ocasio III. He told the judge he is a Canadian citizen and was ordered to surrender his passport.

Records show Hays, a former computer network systems engineer with no criminal history, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 2010, stating he was unemployed and owed nearly $80,000 to creditors.

His ex-wife, Cynthia Hays, said she knew something was wrong when he did not show up Wednesday to pick up their two young daughters at her Bolingbrook home as scheduled.

"He is a good dad -- always on time with his child support and very reliable," she said. "This is totally out of character for him."

jmeisner@tribune.com

jcoen@tribune.com