Monday, June 27, 2011

Blagojevich Found Guity On 17 Of 20 Charges

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been found guilty on 17 of 20 counts of public corruption charges by a federal jury made up of 10 female jurors and one male juror. A jury last year reached only one verdict of guilt on a charge of lying to federal investigators and failed to reach a decision on more than two dozen other charges. The conviction includes charges related to efforts by the former governor to sell the Senate seat then being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. From the Sun-Times:

The jury of 11 women and one man deliberated for nine days before finding Blagojevich guilty on all but three of the charges he faced at his second trial, adding another chapter to the state’s long history of wrongdoing by public officials.
The jury forewoman — a Naperville resident who is a retired director of music and liturgy at a church — said jurors were sending a message with their verdict about the state of politics in Illinois.
A second juror said Blagojevich’s personality, on display when he testified in his own defense, made it harder to convict him.
“I think because he was personable, it made it hard to separate [that] from what we had to do as jurors,” that juror said.
“We had to put aside whether we liked him or didn’t like him and just go by the evidence presented to us.”
The entire jury appeared, together, in a courtroom made available so they could talk with reporters. All spoke without identifying themselves, and the judge hasn’t released the jury list yet.
“It was very difficult,” another juror said. “Many times, we had to keep re-voting.”
That juror said that indecision was on a “mixture of all” the counts.
A fourth juror said of the testimony: “At times, I felt it was manipulative. I would rather just hear facts.”
People should be reminded that the allegations that originally spawned the federal investigation grew out of Blagojevich's corrupt ties to convicted political fixer Tony Rezko, who had intimate ties to Barack Obama and is currently serving a very long prison sentence. Rezko not only raised a large amount of cash for Obama's campaign committees, he also helped with the purchase of Obama's southside mansion at a time the Obamas did not have near the wealth and fame they enjoy today thanks to his successful, historic presidential bid. Obama and Emanuel were active participants in the Blagojevich administration's stacking of state boards and commissions with their Pay To Play pals. The government refused to put Rezko on the stand to prove any of the charges despite the fact that he played a critical role in the government's case against the former governor on charges unrelated to the attempt to sell Obama's senate seat. Government prosecutors successfully blocked efforts by Blagojevich's attorneys to disclose potentially damaging taped conversations Blagojevich had with both Obama and Emanuel concerning the senate seat appointment. The government also blocked Blagojevich's recorded conversations that attributed nefarious activities to them.

Although the guity verdicts allow for sentencing of up to 300 years, Blagojevich is likely to receive a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison. He could very well join his predecessor, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who is currently serving a 6-year prison sentence at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute. A federal judge blocked efforts by Ryan's attorneys for an early release because of the failing health of his wife. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald rejected Blagojevich's claim that he was simply practicing the same political maneuvers that many other politicians practice:

Fitzgerald bristled at the defense’s contention that Blagojevich had been engaging in politics as usual, rather than committing a crime, when “he tried to sell a Senate seat and shake people down.”
“That’s not politics as usual,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s a crime.”
 It is absolutely the truth that Fitzgerald and federal prosecutors have practiced selective prosecution of political corruption. There have been plenty of accounts detailing the public corruption practiced by former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, then-Senator Barack Obama and then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel. Fitzgerald exercised prosecutorial discretion not to charge those men with crimes that were equally as offensive to the public as the crimes committed by Blagojevich. Fitzgerald also gave U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson a pass on his indirect role in attempting to buy the senate seat appointment by having his supporters meet with representatives of Blagojevich and to have them begin steps to raise $1.5 million in campaign contributions for Blagojevich.

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