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Rod Blagojevich Convicted On One Count, Jury Hung On 23

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich walked out of the Federal Courthouse in Chicago this afternoon a convicted felon, but he still managed to pull off a win:

The jury is finally in on Rod Blagojevich — and the verdict is decidedly undecided.

A federal jury of six men and six women just returned a split verdict against the former governor, convicting him on only one of the 24 criminal corruption counts he faced.

The governor was found guilty of giving a false statement to federal agents.

In a courthouse where prosecutors win more than 90 percent of the time and after listening to a treasure trove of secretly recorded conversations, the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the other 23 counts.

Judge James Zagel said he intends to declare a mistrial on the undecided counts. Federal prosecutor Reid Schar told the judge it is “absolutely our intention to retry this” until there is a conclusion. They immediately starting talking about a future trial date.

Speaking after the verdict, Blagojevich sharply criticized U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

“This was a persecution,’’ he said. “. . . They threw everything they could at me. The jury agreed the government did not prove its case.’’

The former governor was found guilty of giving a false statement to FBI agents in March of 2005.

He was found guilty of “knowingly and willfully” making “materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” when he told agents he kept “a firewall between politics and government” and did not “track, or want to know, who contributes to him or how much they are contributing to him.”

Blagojevich denied he was guilty of the one charge he was convicted of.

“I didn’t not lie to the FBI,’’ he said.

Basically, Blagojevich was convicted on the same “lying to an FBI agent” charge that got Martha Stewart and Scooter Libbey in trouble in their cases although, to be honest, the “lie” in Blago’s case could arguably be considered boasting rather than a material misrepresentation.

In any case, while the U.S. Attorney is saying they will re-try on the 23 counts that the jury was unable to reach a verdict on, there’s no denying that Blagojevich won big today. Prosecutors rarely lose in Federal Court and while this isn’t an outright acquittal, it’s close enough considering the high-profile nature of the case and the fact that Blagojevich’s attorneys didn’t even put on a defense case (meaning that the jury wasn’t even able to convict based solely on the prosecutions evidence). They’ll get another bite at the apple, but, for now, one of America’s oddest politicians remains a free man.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    The politics are bad for Illinois Democrats, but I got to like Alexi Giannoulias trying to throw against the wind on this one: “Today, the jury found Rod Blagojevich guilty for lying, and on November 2nd, the voters of Illinois will reject Mark Kirk for lying. The people of Illinois deserve leaders they can trust.”

    See what he did there?

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  2. PD Shaw says:

    FWIW, I don’t think lying to the FBI should be a crime, unless there are some extenuating circumstances like falsely accusing someone else of the crime you committed.

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  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    This sounds very like jury nullification to me since the evidence against him was overwhelming. Since these guys have been shut up together for about 14 days I suspect they’ll start blabbing to the media in the next day or so and the story will emerge.

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  4. Joe

    From what I’ve been reading about this trial in the Chicago papers, it seems pretty clear that the US Attorneys didn’t have quite as strong a case as some might think. Or at least they didnt put on all the evidence they could have.

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  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Brummagem Joe:

    My suspicion is that there was a single juror or possibly a couple of jurors who absolutely, positively couldn’t be convinced that what the former governor had done was a crime. I’ve had precisely that experience on a jury. I’d attribute it to inadequate jury screening by the prosecution.

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  6. sam says:

    “I don’t think lying to the FBI should be a crime, unless there are some extenuating circumstances like falsely accusing someone else of the crime you committed.”

    Uh, you don’t think obstruction of justice should be a crime? Or impeding an investigation into allegations of criminal behavior, if you want? Are you arguing that lying to the FBI about your own criminal conduct, without trying to finger someone else, somehow has some 5th Amendment sanction? (By lying you’re, in effect, protecting yourself by not testifying truthfully against yourself.)

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  7. Dave,

    The one thing that surprised me was when I learned last week that this jury was not sequestered. Given the publicity surrounding the trial, I would’ve thought they would have at least been sequestered during deliberations.

    I bet that changes for Trial # 2

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    Wait a minute, here. In this country you have the presumption of innocence. Doesn’t it even occur to any of you that Blago might actually be innocent?

    Nah, me neither.

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  9. Pug says:

    Fitzgerald deserves a huge raspberrry for this one. You won’t stay in the big leagues long going 1-for-24. And most people show up for jury duty thinking they are part of the prosecution team and it is their solemn duty to convict.

    Fitzgerald is a loser. All he could get Scooter Libby on was lying, too.

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  10. floyd says:

    “one of America’s oddest politicians remains a free man.”

    Whew!!! ….and he gets to stay in the White House too

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  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    “My suspicion is that there was a single juror or possibly a couple of jurors who absolutely,”

    The most likely scenario I agree. Having like you done jury service a couple of times I know exactly what you mean. It’s going to emerge whatever it is.

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  12. Carlies Casey says:

    They should cut the man loose andlet him go home. He was not found guilty by a jury of his peers and that is upposed to be the way it works isn’t it?

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  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    “My suspicion is that there was a single juror or possibly a couple of jurors who absolutely,”

    Looks like it was the lone dope. Maybe she’s looking for her moment of fame.

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  14. PD Shaw says:

    I’ve heard four convincing explanations:

    1. The prosecution erred in failing to call Rezko and Levine. Some people believe the prosecution relied on the promise made in opening arguments that Rod would testify and they saved these guys for rebuttal witnesses.

    2. The case was tried in Chicago, instead of Springfield.

    3. The case was lost at jury selection.

    4. Case was too complicated and prosecution should drop some of the counts next time. No agreement or suggestion on which count. The Obama seat is probably the weakest criminal charge, but it’s the sexiest and shows the governor at his most craven.

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  15. mpw280 says:

    One jury member hangs the verdict, in Chicago, and we all assume a Chicago politician is innocent of charges. OK, do I have a bridge to sell you guys, nice one, built over 100 years ago and crosses the cleanest river with the greatest view downtown on Jackson Ave, title will be free and clear, I guarantee it. ONE jury member hung it and had hung it from the start, as I heard it reported yesterday. Does anyone think that maybe Roddo had an ace up his sleeve? Nah couldn’t be, Chicago politics are very clean and don’t do dirty deals or nothing do they. As someone said this was lost from jury selection but that was because someone probably got to the one member who hung the jury from the moment that they were selected. You have to remember this is CHICAGO, where the machine runs the game and Fitz is lucky he isn’t at the bottom of the river. mpw

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