Blagojevich Found Guilty Of Lying To Federal Agents
CHICAGO (AP) – A federal jury found former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich guilty on Tuesday of one count of lying to federal agents, and the judge said he intended to declare a mistrial on the more serious remaining 23 counts.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says the government is getting ready for a retrial of Blagojevich and his co-defendant brother as soon as possible.
The jury was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Blagojevich of trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. However, one juror said the lone female holdout “just didn’t see what we all saw.”
Blagojevich — known for his showmanlike, over-the-top personality — showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Before jurors came in he sat with his hands folded, looking down, picking at his fingernails. He was back to his ebullient self a short time later as he and his lawyers said they would appeal.
“This jury shows you that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me,” Blagojevich said. “They could not prove I did anything wrong — except for one nebulous charge from five years ago.”
The jury’s conclusion, on their 14th day of deliberations, ended an 11-week trial during which a foul-mouthed Blagojevich was heard on secretly made FBI wiretap tapes saying the power to name a senator was “(expletive) golden” and that he wasn’t going to give up “for (expletive) nothing.”
The count on which Blagojevich was convicted, one of the less serious counts against Blagojevich, included accusations that he lied to federal agents when he said he did not track campaign contributions and kept a “firewall” between political campaigns and government work. It carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. Some of the more serious charges, such as racketeering, carried up to a 20-year penalty.
Judge James B. Zagel set a hearing for Aug. 26 to decide manner and timing of the retrial.
It had been clear that jurors were struggling. Last week, they told Zagel they had reached a unanimous decision on just two counts and had not even considered 11 others. There was no immediate explanation about whether they later disagreed.
Jurors appeared more haggard Tuesday than they did during the trial. As they filed into the courtroom, many appeared nervous, some looking down at the ground as Zagel read the verdict form to himself first, then passed it on to a bailiff. They had asked earlier Tuesday for advice on filling out their verdict forms and a copy of the oath they took before deliberating.
The jurors did not remain at the courthouse to explain their decisions. Soon after the verdict, a spokesman for Zagel said the jurors had left and would not appear in a room set aside for them to speak to the media.
“They’re going home,” said Joel Daly, a spokesman for Zagel. “A lot would like to talk to media folks, but they are plain 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 over in her chair, shaking her head.
Robert Blagojevich said the jury’s conclusion showed he’s been “an innocent target of the federal government” all along.
“I feel strong. I feel confident. I don’t feel in any way deterred. I’ve done nothing wrong,” he told reporters at the courthouse. “I’ve got ultimate confidence in my acquittal.”
Defense attorneys had argued that Blagojevich was a big talker, but never committed a crime. They took a huge gamble by deciding not to call any witnesses — including Blagojevich, who had repeatedly promised to take the stand.
“The jury agreed that the government did not prove its case,” the former governor said.
Throughout most of the trial, the 53-year-old Blagojevich, a seemingly perpetual campaigner and recent reality TV star, seemed cheerful. He often glided through the courthouse smiling and chatting with passers-by.
His demeanor was in contrast to his older brother, a Nashville, Tenn. businessman, who was often subdued and walked to court alone.
By all accounts, the brothers were close growing up and Rod Blagojevich wrote fondly of Robert in his 2009 book, “The Governor.” But Robert Blagojevich’s attorney said the two drifted apart as they got older.
Fitzgerald was in the main courtroom for the verdict for the first time since the trial began. He sat at the end of a spectator’s bench near a wall on the opposite side of the room from Blagojevich, his hands folded across court documents. He looked on blank-faced as the verdict was read. His team of young prosecutors reflected the same mood, also looking on impassively.
During the trial, prosecutors relied heavily on the FBI wiretaps, in which Blagojevich spewed profanity, speculated about getting a Cabinet job in exchange for the Senate appointment. Several witnesses also testified that they felt pressured to donate money to Blagojevich’s campaign in exchange for favorable state action.
Blagojevich’s trial was another chapter in Illinois’ history of crooked politics. His predecessor, George Ryan, was convicted of racketeering in 2006 and is serving a 6 1/2 year-sentence.
Some had feared that the trial could harm Democrats as the party geared up for tough elections this fall.
Blagojevich’s attorneys had plastered Washington and Illinois with subpoenas — including White House chief of staff Ron Emanuel and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — but by the end of the trial, none of them had testified, sparing Democrats any potentially embarrassing testimony.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)