Rod Blagojevich's Narrow Escape: Ex-Illinois Gov. Guilty on 1 Count, but Jury Stymied on Other Charges; Case Grinds On

A single holdout juror may have been all that prevented former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's conviction for allegedly conspiring to trade or sell President Obama's vacated Senate seat, according to a juror in the case.

Juror Erik Sarnello, 21, of Itasca, Ill., told ABC News that a female holdout kept the jury deadlocked at 11-1 on three key counts related to the Senate seat -- conspiracy to commit extortion, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery. He told The Associated Press that the holdout "just didn't see what we all saw" on those "most obvious" charges.

Both sides vowed to keep up the court fight after the jury found Blagojevich, 53, guilty on a lesser charge of making false statements to the FBI but could not reach a verdict on the remaining 23 counts including racketeering, bribery, and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

The conviction carries a maximum prison term of five years, though the former governor is likely to serve a few months to a year in prison if nothing changes during the retrial of the case, a legal expert told ABC News.

Though Sarnello cited a single holdout on the Senate seat charges, jury foreman James Matsumoto, 66, told ABC News affiliate WLS in Chicago there was no single holdout across the board, the votes varied from count to count and jurors were "respectful" toward each other. He added that he voted guilty on all charges against Blagojevich and his brother, Robert Blagojevich, who escaped conviction.

VIDEO: After 14 days of deliberation, jury deadlocked on all but one charge.
Blagojevich Guilty on 1 of 24 Counts

After the verdict, Rod Blagojevich addressed a cheering crowd outside the federal courthouse in Chicago. He continued to proclaim his innocence, including on the one charge for which he was convicted. He blamed the conviction on a "nebulous" conversation he had years ago.

"I did not lie to the FBI," Blagojevich said. "I've told the truth from the very beginning. ... This is a persecution."

Watch "World News" tonight for the latest on the Blagojevich case.

Blagojevich showed no emotion as the verdict was read after 14 days of jury deliberations. He later thanked the jury.

"This jury just showed you that notwithstanding the fact the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me ... on every charge except one they could not prove that I did break any laws," Blagojevich said.

VIDEO: Jury in the corruption trial of the former Governor signals it is deadlocked.
Hung Jury in Blagojevich Trial?

"I didn't break any laws," he added. "I didn't do anything wrong."

The mistrial on the majority of the charges is a major loss for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who ordered the arrest of a sitting governor.

Tonight, prosecutors said they "absolutely" plan to retry Blagojevich with a new jury.

"We have a court date set next week, next Thursday, to set a trial date," Fitzgerald said. "So for all practical purposes we are in the mode of being close to jury selection for a retrial."

Even so, Gil Soffer, a former federal prosecutor, told ABC News Radio that the Blagojevich defense team likely was "feeling pretty good" about the trial result.

"The government really faces the prospect of retrial, which is awful," he said. "The only thing worse than a retrial is a loss."

After the jury deadlocked on the counts against him, Robert Blagojevich said the case proved the criminal justice system has flaws.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...