August 18, 2010 in Nation/World

Retrial, appeal loom in Blagojevich case

Jury convicts ex-governor on one count; hung on 23 others
Michael Tarm And Don Babwin Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks to the media at the Federal Court building on Tuesday in Chicago.
(Full-size photo)

Illinois tradition

The guilty verdict against Rod Blagojevich on one count of making false statements to the FBI marks the fourth time since 1973 that a one-time Illinois governor has been convicted of wrongdoing. Blagojevich’s predecessor, George Ryan, was convicted of racketeering in 2006 and is serving a 6 1/2 year-sentence.

CHICAGO – A federal jury deadlocked Tuesday on all but one of 24 charges against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, including the most explosive of all – that he tried to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. Blagojevich was convicted on a single, less serious count of lying to federal agents.

Prosecutors pledged to retry the case as soon as possible.

“This jury shows you that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me,” Blagojevich said outside court. “They could not prove I did anything wrong – except for one nebulous charge from five years ago.”

But one juror said the panel was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Blagojevich of trying to auction off the Senate seat.

Juror Erik Sarnello of Itasca, Ill., said one woman on the jury “just didn’t see what we all saw.” The 21-year-old Sarnello said the counts involving the Senate seat were “the most obvious.”

Other jurors tried to persuade the holdout to reconsider, but “at a certain point, there was no changing,” he said.

Judge James B. Zagel set a hearing for Aug. 26 to decide manner and timing of the retrial, which could unfold at the height of the fall campaign.

The verdict came on the 14th day of deliberations, ending an 11-week trial during which a foul-mouthed Blagojevich was heard on secret FBI wiretap tapes saying the power to name a senator was “(expletive) golden” and that he wasn’t going to give up “for (expletive) nothing.”

The count on which Blagojevich was convicted included accusations that he lied to federal agents when he said he did not track campaign contributions. It carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. Some of the more serious charges, such as racketeering, carried up to a 20-year penalty.

Blagojevich vowed to appeal the single conviction and declared that he was a victim of persecution by the federal government. He told reporters that he wants the “people of Illinois to know that I did not lie to the FBI.”

Defense attorneys had argued that Blagojevich was a big talker, but never committed a crime. They took a huge gamble by deciding not to call any witnesses – including Blagojevich, who had repeatedly promised to take the stand.

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