H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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The Nature of the Crime of Conspiracy:The Blagojevich trial

From the UPI:

Closing arguments set in Blagojevich trial
CHICAGO, July 26, 2010 (UPI) — Following seven weeks of testimony, closing arguments begin Monday in former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial.

Prosecutors called 27 witnesses in the trial. The defense called no witnesses and was expected to argue that the government failed to prove its case.

Observers say defense attorney Sam Adam Jr.’s presentation will try to address why he didn’t deliver on his promise to put Blagojevich on the stand.

At issue are charges that Blagojevich corrupted his office by trying to leverage his power for personal gain. The government contends that, among other things, Blagojevich was trying to peddle President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.

Attorney Michael Monico, who represented convicted Blagojevich fundraiser Christopher Kelly before Kelly committed suicide last year, said Blagojevich’s lawyers may portray him as a buffoon.

“You can’t hold him criminally accountable” for being goofy, Monico said. “No one takes Blagojevich seriously, and that’s the point. He’s blabbing, but when it comes to action, what does he do?”

Criminal defense attorney Patrick Cotter said Blagojevich didn’t have to complete a criminal act to be found guilty in a conspiracy.

“It’s talk plus action,” he said. “Not talk plus action plus completion.”

H. Michael’s Take:

The nature of the Crime of Conspiracy is complex. Known as an Inchoate Crime, that is an incomplete crime.. other examples of inchoate or “incomplete” crimes are Attempts to committ a crime – or solicitation for the completion of a crime …such as prostitution.

Under Colorado Law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future,with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement.

For the purposes of concurrence, the actus reus (or physical act) is a continuing one and parties may join the plot later and incur joint liability and conspiracy can be charged where the co-conspirators have been acquitted or cannot be traced.

Finally, repentance by one or more parties does not affect liability but may reduce their sentence.

Every inchoate crime or offense must also have the mens rea (or mental state ) of intent. That is, an inchoate offense requires that the defendant have the specific intent to commit the underlying crime.

For example, for a defendant to be guilty of the inchoate crime of solicitation of murder, they must intend a person to die.

A true inchoate offense occurs when the intended crime is not perpetrated,.

There are a number of possible defenses to the charge of an inchoate offense, depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the offense.

Impossibility is no defense to the crime of attempt where the conditions creating the impossibility are unknown to the actor.

A defendant may plead and prove, as an affirmative defense, that they:

1.Stopped all actions in furtherence of the crime or conspiracy 2.Tried to stop the crime as it was ongoing 3.Tried to convince the co-conspirators to halt such actions, or reported the crime to the police or other authorities
Blagojevich, while he has no burden of proving anything in his defense, must, in my opinion, succeed at establshing in the minds of the jurors, that he intended nothing but blather and bluster in his conversations with others.

The DA, however has effectively countered by attacking the Defendant’s character in my opinion, that – “It was about him, defendant Rod Blagojevich, and not the people of the State of Illinois, whom he had sworn an oath to serve,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner told jurors. Niewoehner time and again addressed a common criticism of the case: that it was all just talk about accused crimes that never ended up happening.

“The law, (of conspiracy) doesn’t require you to be a successful crook, it just requires you to be a crook,” Niewoehner told jurors and a packed courtroom.