Blagojevitch Convicted On One Count, For Now

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A jury yesterday ruled former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was guilty of lying to federal agents. But the jury was deadlocked on the other 23 counts, including a charge that he tried to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat. Chicago Sun Times columnist Mary Mitchell discusses the verdict, how Illinois citizens are reacting, and the possibility of a retrial.


Now to Illinois, where former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has finally had a jury come in. After two months of testimony and two weeks of deliberation, a jury found Blagojevich guilty on just one of 24 corruption charges. And the jury said they couldn't agree on 23 others. The government immediately announced plans for a retrial on the remaining charges. Blagojevich celebrated the verdict, and he continued to slam the federal case against him as a witch hunt.

Mr. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Former Illinois Governor): We have a prosecutor who is wasted and want to spend tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep persecuting me, persecuting my family, take me away from my little girls, as well take my home away from us.

Mr. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Former Illinois Governor): We have a prosecutor who has wasted, and wants to spend, tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep persecuting me, persecuting my family, take me away from my little girls, as well take my home away from us.

Ms. MARY MITCHELL (Columnist, Chicago Sun Times): Thank you.

MARTIN: Now, deliberations lasted for two weeks and the jury couldn't reach agreement, as we said, on 23 of the 24 charges. How surprising was that?

Ms. MITCHELL: Well, it was surprising to some, it was not surprising to me. I must say, all along, I've said that the problem here was going to be no smoking gun. You know, 500 hours of wiretap information, tapes that people can listen to that clearly show the governor, if nothing else, had a very foul mouth and said some pretty damaging things.

But no, you couldn't connect that to anything that he received. He didn't get an ambassadorship. He didn't get any money into his campaign coffers. He didn't the government could not show what he got for the corruption. So I think that's very that was very critical in his case because it was so complicated, juries had to see what did he get? And they could not find it. And I think that was the major problem here.

MARTIN: So the argument was that he so the one count that he was convicted on, which was filing false statements, that was clear that he did make a false statement that he but...

Ms. MITCHELL: I think that that is something that any juror having listened to the evidence, and the testimony from his aides, could clearly say in their own mind, beyond a reasonable doubt. But the other counts that they had, you know, there were 20-some odd counts, 24 counts in all, you know, they couldn't connect the dots. And that's a problem because if you're in a jury room and you are deliberating, you have to be sure that you don't have any doubt. The moment doubt enters your mind, you can't convict someone.

MARTIN: How was the news that the prosecution says it is immediately going to retry him on the additional charges how is that news being received, from what you can tell?

Ms. MITCHELL: I think this is a public relations nightmare for the prosecutors. And the reason I say that is because we are dealing with a city that is in the middle of a crisis, in terms of violence. People are being killed daily, young people 7, 9, 12, 13 years old - three policemen shot in a two-month period. Lack of police officers on the street.

And even a mayor - Mayor Daley came out and recently criticized the federal government for not doing enough to get the gangs and the criminals off the street. And then you have them saying, immediately, they're going to drag an ex-governor back into court to retry a case that clearly, they blew. They blew this case.

They did not bring out the kind of witnesses and the top guns that they said that they had in this case. We didn't see Rahm Emanuel. We didn't see Jesse Jackson Jr. We didn't see Tony Rezko. We didn't see any of these big names that apparently were involved in whatever corrupt dealings, according to the government.

We didn't see them take the stand. And I think that that's going to be a problem going forward, in terms of public relations. It's a public relations nightmare.

MARTIN: And finally, Mary, in announcing this case and - prosecutors said that the conduct was so despicable, it would make Abraham Lincoln roll over in his grave, you know. Does anybody still think that?

Ms. MITCHELL: I doubt it. I obviously, the 12 people who sat in that jury room did not think that. And those are the people that counted.

MARTIN: And finally, is there any indication that the prosecution is going to back off of their stance that they're immediately going to go forward, given that there's been this kind of outcry?

Ms. MITCHELL: I don't think that the prosecution cares one little wit about what the public outcry is. I think what they're concerned about is that they spend all this money, and now they have to justify putting this case on trial. They are going to go back into court, and they're going to try it all over again. That horror is going to be if they try it all over again, and the same thing happened.

I just don't think - with the evidence they presented the first time around, if they redo that, then they're going to come back, I think, with another hung jury.

MARTIN: Mary Mitchell is a columnist for the Chicago Sun Times. She joined us by phone from her office in Chicago. Mary, thanks again.

Ms. MITCHELL: Thank you.

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