Rod Blagojevich Convicted on Corruption Charges
Blagojevich and his wife hug in courtroom; "Let's just go home."
June 27, 2011 -- A "stunned" Rod Blagojevich and wife Patti hugged in the courtroom after a federal jury in Chicago this afternoon convicted the former Illinois governor of attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated when President Obama was elected in 2008, among the 17 guilty counts against him.
His wife could be heard saying to him, "Let's just go home."
A sentencing date has yet to be set but former federal prosecutors who have experience in federal sentencing guidelines say he's likely to get 7 to 10 years.
Leaving the courthouse, Blagojevich said he was "frankly disappointed" and "stunned." He was met by a small chorus of "boos" outside.
Blagojevich was acquitted of soliciting bribes in the alleged shakedown of a road-building executive, according to the Associated Press. The jury deadlocked on two charges of attempted extortion related to that executive and funding for a school, the AP reported.
The jurors told the judge this morning they had agreed on 18 of 20 counts, of which the most serious charges each carry a 10-year sentence.
The verdict was announced this afternoon as dozens of people lined the streets outside the federal courthouse.
Outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago, a horde of media had been joined by dozens of Illinoisans, many with their cellphone cameras at the ready, according to the AP.
This is the second trial for the Democrat. A previous trial ended with a jury hung on all but one charge, although he has maintained his innocence. But federal prosecutors elected to bring the case again.
The jury in the new trial -- eleven women and one man -- reached its decision after nearly 10 days of deliberation. Federal prosecutors streamlined their presentation after the first jury complained of an overly complex case. Last year's result was a hung jury on 23 of the original 24 counts, convicting Blagojevich on a single charge of making a false statement to the FBI.
This time, the colorful ex-governor took a huge gamble by testifying in his own defense. Legal analysts called it "a hail Mary pass." Even the judge, James Zagel, told Blagojevich in court that it was probably his best chance to beat the rap.
For seven days, Blagojevich took the stand in an attempt to counter hundreds of FBI wiretaps that, prosecutors argued, demonstrated his maneuvering to peddle the vacated Senate seat of the newly elected Barack Obama. In perhaps the most infamous recording, the then governor is heard saying, "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden. And I, I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing."
Other wiretaps recorded Blagojevich musing aloud about possible senior jobs in the new administration he might get should he appoint Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett. "How about Health and Human Services, can I get that?" "How about U.N. Ambassador?"
Jurors also heard recordings that, prosecutors said, showed Blagojevich scheming to sell the Senate Seat to allies of U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for more than $1 million in campaign contributions. Jackson has insisted he had no knowledge of any "unauthorized" efforts on his behalf.
On the stand, Blagojevich argued he was merely engaged in speculative political horse-trading. His lawyers contended the FBI tapes amounted to nothing but bluster. "He talked and talked and that's all he did," lead defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said.
But federal prosecutors compared Blagojevich to a cop asking a stopped motorist for a bribe. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton told the jury: "The law focuses on 'the ask,' not on whether there was a receipt. The harm is done when 'the ask' is made."
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