Illinois Reacts To Blagojevich Verdict

After a long trial on political corruption charges and a conviction on only one of 24 of them, Illinois residents react to the verdict and the prospect of another trial in the continuing saga of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The verdict yesterday in the corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich means one thing: It's not over. When the jury announced that it could agree only on one of 24 corruption counts, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald vowed to retry Blagojevich.

In just a moment, NPR's Carrie Johnson explores what went wrong for Fitzgerald. But first, NPR's Cheryl Corley reports on what the people of Illinois think about the verdict, and the prospect of another Blagojevich trial.

CHERYL CORLEY: After a two-month trial and 14 days of waiting for a decision, lots of people here, waiting and traveling on Chicago's elevated trains, had plenty to say about the Blagojevich verdict. Take 20-year-old Loyola University student Sara Lubtke(ph).

Ms. SARA LUBTKE (Student, Loyola University): That's so ridiculous. It's kind of like come on, are you serious?

CORLEY: But Joe Litell(ph), who works in law enforcement, says the jury verdict - guilty on one count of lying to the FBI, and hung on 23 other counts -wasn't as odd as some might think.

Mr. JOE LITELL: I think it was fair because I don't think they had enough concrete evidence, you know, of actually trying to sell the Senate seat - or he wasn't seen, you know, actually, you know, money changing hands or a payoff or, you know...

CORLEY: And that might have been what convinced at least one holdout juror. Drew Richardson(ph), a seasonal worker for the Chicago Cubs, says he was offended by the circus-like atmosphere of this case, with Blagojevich making appearances on television and radio, professing his innocence before the trial began. He says what should have been key in the trial was Blagojevich's intent.

Mr. DREW RICHARDSON: You don't have to murder somebody to say that you're going to murder somebody, and to attempt to murder and then put together a plan to murder somebody. That doesn't make you innocent. And what about what they have on tape, with him saying - and talking about?

CORLEY: Retired factory worker Eliza Hook(ph) says with all the media hoopla surrounding the former governor, she knew from the start getting convictions on multiple counts would not be easy. Not that she's happy about the result. But she says Rod Blagojevich is certainly not the worst of the bunch.

Ms. ELIZA HOOK: You see how many - how many of them in Illinois is charged, charged, charged, charged. And you know, they go free.

CORLEY: Blagojevich, however, could receive up to five years in prison, based on his conviction of lying to the FBI. While the verdict was surely a defeat for the federal government, the conviction on just one count means for the second time in four years, a former Illinois governor has been found guilty of corruption.

Mark Latarawich(ph), a paralegal who moved to Chicago less than a year ago, says the state's political history has made an impression.

Mr. MARK LATARAWICH (Paralegal): Growing up in New Jersey and living in Manhattan, I just sort of assumed that New Jersey was the most corrupt state in the nation. And the stuff that goes on in Illinois is just beyond reason. It's just crazy.

CORLEY: Even so, Illinois is not the first state to suffer through back-to-back indictments of former governors. Maryland, in the 1970s, already went through that. That's little consolation, though, to Illinoisans.

Niela Basney(ph), a musician and orchestra conductor, says the retrial will be the best for Illinois, even if it ends up costing taxpayers a great deal of money.

Ms. NIELA BASNEY (Musician): Well, I think there may be a lot of tolerance here in Illinois, but that doesn't make it right, and we need to continue to follow corruption and little by little, try to make it not something that works.

CORLEY: The problem now will be picking a jury to hear a corruption case that so many more potential jurors already know so much about.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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