August 18, 2010 by staff
Blagojevich Verdict, A federal jury deadlocked Tuesday in all but one of the 24 charges against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, including the most explosive of all – he tried to sell an appointment to sit old President Barack Obama in the Senate. Blagojevich was convicted of one charge, less serious than lying to federal agents.
Prosecutors promised to retry the case as soon as possible.
“This panel shows that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me,” Blagojevich said outside court. “They could not prove I did anything wrong – except for a nebulous charge five years ago.”
But a juror said the panel was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Blagojevich of trying to auction the seat in the Senate.
Erik Jurado Sarnello of Itasca, Illinois, said a woman on the jury “did not see what everyone saw.” The 21-year-old said the Sarnello account the participation of the Senate banking were “the most obvious.”
Other jury members tried to persuade the redoubt to reconsider, but “at a given time, there were no changes,” he said.
Blagojevich – known for his showmanlike, personality over-the-top – showed no emotion when the verdict was read. Before jurors entered, sat with hands folded, looking down and picking up nails nervously. He and his lawyer said he would appeal the conviction.
The verdict came on day 14 of deliberations, ending a 11-week trial during which a foul-mouthed Blagojevich was heard on secret FBI wiretap tapes saying that the power to appoint a senator “(expletive) of gold” and was not going to quit “for (expletive) anything.”
The recount in which Blagojevich was convicted included charges that he lied to federal agents when he said that failure to follow campaign contributions. But the jury did not convict on a claim related to that kept a “wall” between political campaigns and government work. Carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Some of the more serious charges such as extortion, carried to a penalty of 20 years.
Blagojevich vowed to appeal the conviction and declared that he was a victim of persecution by the federal government. He told reporters that he wants the “people of Illinois to know that she lied to the FBI.”
It was clear the jury struggled with the case. Last week, Zagel said they had reached a unanimous decision in only two charges and had not even considered 11 others. There was no immediate explanation as to whether later disagreed.
Jurors seemed more gaunt in court Tuesday. As presented in the courtroom, many looked nervous, some looking at the floor as Zagel read the verdict form itself, then became a bailiff. They called on Tuesday for advice in filling out their verdict forms and a copy of the oath they took before discussing.
The jury was not in court to explain their decisions.
“They go home,” said Joel Daly, a spokesman for Zagel. “Many people would like to speak with the media, but are evident tired.”
After the verdict was read, defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. rubbed his own forehead and mouth, appearing to shake his head in disgust. The former governor’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, leaned back in his chair, shaking his head.
The brother of former governor and co-defendant, Robert Blagojevich, said the conclusion of the jury demonstrated that it has been “an innocent target of the federal government” all the time.
“I feel strong. I feel confident. I do not feel in any way deterred. I’ve done nothing wrong,” he told reporters at the courthouse. “I have confidence in my last absolution.”
Defense lawyers had argued that Blagojevich was a big talker, but never committed a crime. They took a big risk in deciding not to call witnesses – including Blagojevich, who had promised several times to take the stand.
“The jury agreed that the government did not prove their case,” said the former governor.
Judge James B. Zagel scheduled a hearing for Aug. 26 to decide how and when the new trial, which could be developed at the height of the fall campaign.
For most of the test, the 53-year-old Blagojevich, a perpetual campaign and recent reality show star, seemed cheerful. Often ran down the court smiling and chatting with passersby.
His behavior was in contrast to his older brother, a businessman from Nashville, Tenn., who was often subjected to and went to court alone.
By all accounts, the brothers were close growing up and Rod Blagojevich wrote fondly of Robert in his book of 2009, “Governor.” But the lawyer for Robert Blagojevich said the two drifted apart as they grew.
U.S. Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was in the main hall of the sentence for the first time since the trial began. He sat at the final table of a bystander near a wall on the opposite side of the room Blagojevich, his hands crossed on court documents. He looked expressionless as the verdict was read. His team of young prosecutors showed the same state of mind, also looking impassive.
Some observers said the government will return with a harder case next time.
“And the government has the resources to keep trying until they get a conviction – and probably,” said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor. “And Blagojevich is running out of resources. It is a war of attrition that the government can win.”
Although the verdict is a clear victory for the defense, Turner said it was a slap in the face of Fitzgerald and his team.
Turner said the statement by U.S. attorney Blagojevich the day after he was arrested, saying that prosecutors had made a “political crime wave of corruption.”
“This is a clear defeat for prosecutors,” said Turner. “The message of Fitzgerald’s grand jury – this was the hype and exaggeration.”
Fitzgerald said Turner was the error of closure of the undercover investigation in 2008 and stop Blagojevich – before the alleged schemes play.
“If they let things forward, this could have been an open and shut case,” he said.
Upon leaving the courthouse, Blagojevich won a big applause from the crowd tried.
Leota Johnson, 72, of Chicago, chanted “Rod is free!” Johnson said he supports Blago because she is not convinced he did something wrong and that payment for the game is Chicago politics as usual.
During the trial, prosecutors relied heavily on FBI wiretaps, which showed Blagojevich blasphemy, speculated about how to get a cabinet job in return for the appointment of the Senate. Several witnesses also said they felt pressured to donate money to Blagojevich’s campaign in exchange for favorable state action.
Blagojevich trial was another chapter in the history of crooked Illinois politicians. His predecessor, George Ryan, was convicted of extortion in 2006 and is serving a 6 1 / 2 years in prison.
Some feared that the trial could hurt the Democrats as the party prepared for the tough choices this fall.
Lawyers for Blagojevich and Illinois had beaten Washington with citations – including White’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Senate, Harry Reid, majority leader – but in the end of the trial, none of them had said, saving the Democrats any potentially embarrassing testimony .
Associated Press Writers Karen Hawkins and Serena Dai contributed to this report.
AP Deanna Bellandi contributed to this report.
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