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Archive for Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blagojevich jury deadlocks on all but one charge

August 18, 2010

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— Rod Blagojevich’s bravado was back. After waiting quietly for a jury to deliver its verdict, the disgraced former governor returned to his defiant claims about being the victim of runaway prosectors.

“They threw everything they could at me — 24 charges that I’ve said from the beginning are false — and the jury agreed that the government did not prove its case,” Blagojevich boasted Tuesday after the federal jury deadlocked on all but one of the allegations. Jurors convicted Blagojevich on only a single, less serious count of lying to federal agents.

But, for all his confidence, it turns out that only a lone juror stood between Blagojevich and a conviction on the most explosive allegation of all — that he tried to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. Prosecutors pledged to retry him as soon as possible.

Three jurors said the panel was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Blagojevich on more serious charges. Two of those jurors said those counts included 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.” 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. Juror Stephen Wlodek said, “In the end, based on what happened today, the people of the state just did not have justice served.”

That so many jurors were convinced of Blagojevich’s guilt bodes well for prosecutors, said Joel Levin, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago who helped win a conviction of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan on corruption charges.

“At the end of the day, it signals very strongly they will get a conviction next time,” Levin said. “It sounds like the case was lost in jury selection.”

Blagojevich — known for his showmanlike, over-the-top personality — showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Before jurors came in, he sat with his hands folded, looking down and picking nervously at his fingernails. He and his lawyer said they would appeal the conviction.

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