Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Convicted On 17 Of 20 Corruption Charges

After dodging a bullet last August, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich came to the end of his rope today:

CHICAGO — A jury on Monday convicted Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, of trying to personally benefit from his role in selecting a replacement for President Obama in the United States Senate.

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat whose former aides say once saw himself as a presidential contender some day, was found guilty of 17 counts of wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery, extortion conspiracy and bribery conspiracy. He was acquitted on one charge of bribery, and the jury deadlocked on two counts of attempted extortion.

The verdict appeared to be the conclusion, at last, to the spectacle of Mr. Blagojevich’s political career, which began its spiraling descent shortly after Mr. Obama was elected president in November 2008. A month after Election Day, Mr. Blagojevich, who under state law was required to name a senator to replace Mr. Obama, was arrested, and federal agents revealed that they had secretly recorded hundreds of hours of damaging phone calls by him and his advisers.

As the counts were read in court, and one “guilty” followed another, Mr. Blagojevich looked back at his wife, Patti, at one point. She slumped into the arms of a relative, eyes closed, and wiped away tears.

Mr. Blagojevich, a lawyer and former state and federal lawmaker, was accused of trying to secure campaign contributions, a cabinet post or a high-paying job in exchange for his official acts as governor — whether that was picking a senator, supporting particular legislation or deciding how to spend state money.

The outcome came as a victory for federal prosecutors, whose earlier trial of Mr. Blagojevich resulted in a deadlocked jury on most counts and led people to wonder whether Mr. Blagojevich’s behavior would ultimately be deemed crass political deal-making or a lot of blustery talk, but not rise to the level of a crime.

It’s fairly obvious that the analysts were right list year when they noted that the prosecutors in the first trial had made the trial too complicated for the jury, thus leading to 23 counts on which that jury was unable to reach a verdict. This time, they simplified the trial and, more helpfully, Blagojevich testified in his defense and, by many accounts, destroyed himself.

With 18 convictions — Blago was convicted of lying to an FBI agent last time around — the former Governor is likely to be a guest of the Bureau of Prisons for many years.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    Local legal analysis is predicting 10 years. I believe the Republican governor before him got 6 and a 1/2. Fingers crossed that they get adjoining cells.

    The jury members being interviewed appear to have been most certain and in agreement on the attempt to sell Obama’s Senate seat — the charge that most people are familiar with outside of Illinois.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    The maximum penalty for Ryan’s crimes was 95 years; the maximum for Blagojevich’s 300. Ten years would be a bargain for Blagojevich.

    I continue to wonder if he’s got anything worth trading to avoid a harsher sentence. I can’t help but believe that there are some very nervous people in Illinois right about now.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    I’ve wondered about some of the other players who haven’t turned state’s evidence.

    Part of me wonders if this is a situation in which as corrupt as Blago is, he was never very good at it.

  4. PD,

    The basic defense that his attorneys have pursued throughout this seems to have been something along the lines of “he’s too stupid to be corrupt”

  5. PD Shaw says:

    @Doug, it was clearly a strategy. Several times the defense attorneys attempted to solicit evidence that Blago did not know what he was doing was illegal. Judge wouldn’t allow it and was getting peeved at counsel for ignoring his rulings. Either defense counsel thought the judge’s rulings on the intent element were wrong, or they felt the need to get this type of testimony before the jury overrode the consequences.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I believe the Republican governor before him got 6 and a 1/2. Fingers crossed that they get adjoining cells.

    Somehow or other, I don’t think Ryan was half as corrupt as Blago. God, I felt slimy just listening to him.