• BREAKING NEWS Shelter in place lifted after prisoner captured

Blagojevich 'stunned,' guilty on 17 of 20 counts

June 27, 2011 8:32:08 PM PDT
Former governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty on 17 of 20 counts in his second corruption trial. The jury found him not guilty on one count and was hung on two others.

"Well, among the many lessons that have learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less. I'm going to keep my remarks kind of short. Patti and I are obviously very disappointed in the outcome. I, frankly, am stunned. There is not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them, and explain things to them, and then try to sort things out," Blagojevich said as he left the courthouse.

The foreman of the jury read the counts, one-by-one. Jurors were deadlocked on counts 11 and 16; and Blagojevich was found not guilty on count 17, which dealt with allegations he squeezed a tollway executive for campaign cash. Blagojevich faced a range of counts from conspiracy to soliciting a bribe to wire fraud related to an attempt to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama, as well as others. Breakdown of the verdicts on the 20 counts

As the verdict was read, Blagojevich's wife, Patti, cried and slumped into the arms of her brother. The defendant looked somber and placed his head down after hearing the guilty counts. He turned to his lawyer and asked, "What just happened?"

Blagojevich then hugged his wife and she said, "Let's just go home."

Blagojevich was booed by some on his way out of the courthouse.

As they arrived at their Ravenswood Manor home on the city's Northwest Side Monday afternoon, Patti ushered Blagojevich through the crowd of reporters, onlookers and neighbors.

"It's very meaningful to see the people and feel the support of the people. It's a very meaningful thing," Blagojevich said. "The sadness that I feel, the disappointment and the shock, um, Patti and I have to discuss this with our children, our little girls, and start planning for the future. . . and of course, I want things to work out best for Patti. But it's important to still the people know that I fought real hard for them. And what's really difficult is to think that some people might think I let them down. And I didn't, I fought real hard. . . "

Judge James Zagel restricted Blagojevich's travel. He will not be allowed to leave Illinois without permission from the court. The government also asked Blagojevich's property -- including his Northwest Side home and a D.C. apartment -- be put up as bond.

Blagojevich faces significant prison time; a sentencing date has not been set, but is expected in the fall.

Blagojevich, 54, is expected to ask for a mistrial and then appeal.

Jurors talk about deliberations

The 11 women and one man who made up the jury in the second Blagojevich trial said they were confident they reached a "fair and just verdict." All 12 of them gathered to speak to the media Monday afternoon at the courthouse.

The jurors, who did not give their names, said Blagojevich's "personable" testimony made their jobs harder.

Blagojevich "All Shook Up" on way to court

Before the verdict was read, Blagojevich said, "It's in God's hands," as he left his Ravenswood Manor home. He then quoted an Elvis song, "All Shook Up," saying, "My hands are shaking, my knees are weak. I can't seem to stand on my own two feet."

On his way into court, Blagojevich greeted court watchers outside the Dirksen Federal Building with hugs and handshakes. Crowds gathered to hear the verdict, and a second overflow room was set up because so many people showed up Monday afternoon.

Blagojevich's publicist, Glenn Selig, told ABC 7 via email, "There is no one word to accurately describe what the governor is feeling right now. It's a nearly 3 year journey that's come down to this. There are clearly many emotions involved. We are taking things minute by minute now."

Jury "confident" no verdict could be reached in 2 counts

Judge James Zagel read the note from the jury foreman in court Monday morning that indicated "the jury has come to a decision on 18 of the 20 counts" against the former governor and were "confident" they could not reach agreement on the remaining two counts-- even with further deliberations. Judge Zagel then asked the defense and prosecution if they were OK with the fact jurors had not reached agreement on all counts. Both agreed it was fine.

Prosecutor Reid Schar said they have "good faith in the effort" of jurors.

Guilty on 17; not guilty on 1; no verdict in 2 counts

Blagojevich, 54, faced 20 counts ranging from conspiracy to soliciting a bribe to wire fraud. He was convicted of trying to trade or sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate for his personal gain and squeezing executives for campaign donations in exchange for state business. He denies any wrongdoing.

The charges against Blagojevich were broken down into five alleged schemes: exchange of the U.S. Senate seat for personal gain; and fundraising shakedowns against a hospital CEO, a tollway executive, a horseracing executive and a grant for Chicago Schools. The weak link in the government's case appears to be the state tollway allegations; jurors were deadlocked on one count related to that allegation and found Blagojevich not guilty on the other. Breakdown of the Counts

Half the counts Blagojevich faced were wire fraud, which required the government to prove Blagojevich wasn't just talking, but took further actions by placing phone calls.

"It's often said that our U.S. justice system is slow, but true," said Robert Grant, FBI. "There's no better evidence you can present to a jury than a defendant's own words in his own voice."

This is the former governor's second corruption trial. Last year, jurors found Blagojevich guilty of lying to the FBI, one of 24 charges he faced. They were deadlocked on 23 others, in part due to a single juror.

"We made an effort to slim things down," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald Monday after the verdict was read. "I thought the first trial was well presented. I thought the second trial was better presented because we learned."

Fitzgerald called the Blagojevich verdict "bittersweet," because it was a second corruption trial aimed at an Illinois governor. "It's sad that we're back here just five years later dealing with corruption," he said, referring to former Illinois governor George Ryan, who is currently behind bars.

In this second trial, Blagojevich was the only defendant. In the first, his brother, Robert, was also charged. Prosecutors decided not to retry the Nashville resident this time around. Speaking from his home, Robert said, "My brother is a fighter. He is not going to give up. I'm sure he is as stunned by today's verdict as we all are, but he is not going to give up and he'll pursue every legal means that he has to pursue and I know he believes in his innocence."

Eleven women and one man make up this second jury. Deliberations began on June 10 after six weeks of testimony in the streamlined case.

Unlike the first trial, Blagojevich testified in his own defense. He spent one week on the stand, often giving longwinded answers to yes and no questions. His defense attorneys argued the former governor talked a lot but never did anything wrong.

Prosecutors likened the case to that of a police officer asking for a bribe, saying "The harm is done when 'the ask' is made..."

The legal case: What's next for Blagojevich?

When Blagojevich walked out of the Dirksen Federal Building Monday, he didn't leave the legal case behind.

First, there is the issue of bond.

Convicted of 18 felonies, including the lying charge from a year ago, Blagojevich will be required to post additional bond to remain free. He is likely to put up the remaining equity he has in his Ravenswood home and a half-million dollar condo in Washington. Details will be worked out within the next week at a meeting between his attorneys and prosecutors.

"There'll be some paperwork that needs to be filled out in terms of his ability to post those things in a forfeiture agreement that he'll sign and they'll secure his bond," said Reid Schar, assistant U.S. Attorney.

There are the post trial motions due four weeks from Monday on July 25. Among them: whether a Blagojevich request to remain free on bond as his appeal is considered. He would have to show a compelling reason that his appeal is likely to succeed, a standard difficult to meet. It didn't succeed for ex-governor George Ryan.

That leads to the appeal itself. Blagojevich lawyers will argue the conviction should be reversed because the ex-governor wasn't allowed to play certain tapes.

His first attorney, Sam Adam Jr., is likely to help prepare the appeal that could take months.

"He was not able to corroborate his own innocence with the tapes that we know and that they wanted to put in that show he was not committing a crime. I think we'll see that in the Seventh Circuit, I think we'll see that on the appeal, and I think he'll end up vindicated," said Adams Jr.

Finally, the sentence. An August 11th status hearing could see a date set for the sentencing, probably sometime this fall. He is eligible for 300 years. Most experts see him getting less than 12 years.

"Somewhere between six and 11 years. The sentencing guidelines by the United States Sentencing Commission have a mathematical formula. You punch in who he is, what he did, whether drugs were involved-which they weren't - weapons, etc. and it gives you a range the judge will be able to sentence him. I think it will be a range somewhere between six and seven on the bottom and 11 on the top," said Prof. Richard Kling, Kent College of Law.

Judges have wide discretion in sentencing and Judge Zagel may consider many factors beyond the four corners of the verdicts-including whether Blagojevich lied while testifying. There is another corruption prosecution that was split off of the Blagojevich case; Springfield power broker William Cellini, whose trial date is October 3.


Load Comments