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

He could get 5 years in jail. Prosecution pursuing 23 hung jury charges.

July 29, 2010, 2:05 PM

Aug. 17, 2010 — -- 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.

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.

"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.

"If, in fact, the charges are brought back against me, we're prepared to defend those vigorously and aggressively as we did already," he said. "And I've got ultimate confidence in my acquittal."

He did not seem to savor the prospect of more time in court.

"I have lived through the most surreal experience anyone could live through," he said. "I have felt like this has been a slow-bleed from the beginning, both financially, emotional and otherwise."

Blagojevich Trial: Signs of a Jury Deadlock

Earlier today, jurors asked for and received a copy of the oath that they took at the beginning of the trial. The jury also asked Judge James Zagel how to mark the verdict form if they were unable to reach a verdict on some counts. Both were signs the jury was deadlocked on some of the counts against Blagojevich.

Jurors had indicated for the past week that they could not reach agreement on several of the counts facing Blagojevich. The six-man, six-woman jury sent a note to Zagel Thursday saying that it had come to agreement on two of the 24 counts facing the impeached governor.

Zagel has described the jury as "disciplined and diligent."

Zagel could have also kept sending jurors back to deliberate until they reached a consensus.

During his seven-week trial, the ever-chatty Blagojevich has worked the crowds outside the courthouse, glad-handing every step of the way. But inside the court, jurors heard a crass, profane politician on wire-tapped conversations.

Prosecutors argued that the "Blagojevich enterprise" schemed to sell political favors, including an appointment to Barack Obama's Senate seat. The profanity-laced tapes exposed the fiery, backroom politics happening in Blagojevich's office directly after President Obama was elected.

"I mean, I've got this thing and it's f****** golden," Blagojevich said the day after Obama won the presidency. "And I'm not giving it up for f****** nothing."

The gold he sought, prosecutors argued, was a high-powered job. The ex-governor asked top aide John Harris about trading the Senate seat for a Cabinet post in the Obama administration if he named Obama's choice.

On tape, Blagojevich suggested that Obama knew he wanted to make a deal, something the president repeatedly has denied.

"How about Health and Human Services, can I get that?" Blagojevich asked on one tape. "Whatever Cabinet position would not be stupid. How about U.N. ambassador? Ridiculous?"

Blagojevich went on to ponder where he might serve as ambassador, mentioning Germany, England, France and Canada.

Blagojevich floated a wide assortment of names for Obama's vacant Senate seat, including Oprah Winfrey.

"This one, she's so up there, so high, that nobody can assail this pick. This would be huge," he said.

At one point, the former governor even suggested appointing himself.

Obama: Valerie Jarrett Is Qualified

Testimony from Thomas Balanoff, an official with the Service Employees International Union, shed light on President Obama's role, too.

Balanoff testified that the night before Obama's victory, the future president called Balanoff leaving a message, saying, "Tom, this is Barack. Give me a call."

When the two finally spoke by phone, according to the testimony, Obama told Balanoff that he thought there were several good candidates for the Senate job and that he would not be supporting anyone for the office.

Obama did, however, mention that his friend Valerie Jarrett was interested in the job. According to Balanoff's testimony, Obama said that he would prefer Jarrett work at the White House, but that she was qualified to be a senator.

The testimony does not directly conflict with Obama's statements on the matter.

Balanoff's testimony was seen as damning to Blagojevich. Balanoff said that he had direct interaction with the former Illinois governor regarding the Senate seat.

When he went to Blagojevich about Obama's call, the former governor almost immediately brought up the possibility of a Cabinet post for himself, according to testimony.

When it became clear that the Obama administration wasn't going to make a deal, Blagojevich got angry.

"They're not willing to give me anything but appreciation. ... F*** them," Blagojevich said on the tapes.

Other dirty schemes, said prosecutors, included trying to extort campaign cash from the head of a children's hospital.

Blagojevich's guiding principle, the government argued, was "What about me?"

Blagojevich's colorful defense team, a father and son, argued their client's only crime was "talking too much."

Sam Adam Sr. and Sam Adam Jr. claimed that the former governor was insecure and at the mercy of his advisers.

They even said that his stupidity was to blame, that he was "not the sharpest knife in the drawer."

The bottom line, his defense claimed, was that no money or jobs ever changed hands.

ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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