I-Team

Blagogate? Break-in at former gov's lawyer office

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Chicago police are investigating a break-in at the South Side office of Sam Adam and his son, Sam Adam Jr., the lead lawyers representing impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Hyde Park building looks like a typical three flat. There is nothing on the outside identifying it as an attorney's office. In fact, Sam Adam's name is not even fully spelled out on the mailbox.

However, it is known as an office in the neighborhood. About a year ago the attorney and his well known client, the former governor, were seen on local news stations leaving the office after a strategy session. Still Adam doubts the early morning break had anything to do with the case against Rod Blagojevich.

"They knocked in all my doors, took laptops even from attorneys that just rent from me," said Adam.

Police say the burglars got away with eight laptop computers, some monitors and a safe. They were in the building just a few minutes at most and were gone by the time police arrived shortly after being alerted by the burglar alarm. Police said they are looking at private security camera video from the area.

"If in fact they were targeted because of who they are and the property that was taken, that opens up the investigation down that avenue. Other than that, it could be just happenstance," said Deputy Supt. Steve Peterson, CPD.

Sam Adam said while the laptops contained lots of information about the Blagojevich case, burglars ignored lots of folders lying around that are labeled confidential. They also left behind hours of tapes the FBI secretly recorded of the former governor's phone conversations. Adam believed they got away with little, if any sensitive information, and no information that would delay his trial preparations.

"There's nothing you don't have backed up elsewhere. I've backed everything up," said Adam.

Thousands of hours of digitized undercover FBI tapes were provided by the government to Blagojevich's defense attorneys. The audio evidence was being logged in preparation for Mr. Blagojevich's defense against corruption charges. He is accused of scheming to sell or trade President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat and other pay-to-play crimes. Blagojevich is scheduled to stand trial next June with his brother Robert, the head of the ex-governor's campaign fund.

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis told reporters during an unrelated afternoon news conference that investigators are checking security cameras in the Southside neighborhood for any video that may show the burglars. The law office itself did not have security cameras, only a burglar alarm that was triggered by the criminals. There are no apparent suspects, according to detectives.

Even though police sources say the burglary resulted in a theft of some recordings made by the FBI and it was property provided by federal authorities to the Blagojevich defense team, it apparently is not a federal crime and therefore does not fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI.

"There is no federal jurisdiction in this theft, as it has been described to me, we are NOT investigating" FBI Special Agent Ross Rice told the ABC7I-Team.

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is prosecuting Blagojevich on corruption charges, has "no comment" on taped evidence in the case having been stolen. The material that was taken included copies of evidence, not originals, which would have been held by the authorities for use at trial.

The Blagojevich legal team also made copies of the evidence provided by prosecutors, so even if some-or all-of it was stolen, they would still be able to continue preparing the ex-governor's defense.

While a complete inventory of what was taken is still underway, lawyer Adam, Jr. says that a review continues of the thousands of hours of recordings made secretly by the FBI. And the outspoken attorney seized the opportunity to give a parting shot to the government: "We're not going to let this slow us down and slow down the truth - that the governor did nothing wrong."

Sam Adam is offering a $2500 reward for the return of the computers with no questions asked. The US Attorney's office provided Adam with the tapes and other documents as part of the discovery process before trial. A spokesperson for the office had no comment tonight about the burglary.

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