Illinois ex-Governor Blagojevich convicted on corruption charges

Illinois ex-Governor Blagojevich convicted on corruption charges

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[JURIST] A jury in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] on Monday convicted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [personal website; JURIST news archive] on 17 of 20 counts including attempting to sell the US Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. The jury convicted [count tally] Blagojevich of right counts of wire fraud and on counts of extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with the sale of a US Senate seat. However, the jury remained deadlocked [Chicago Tribune report] on a charge of attempted extortion for solicitation of then-congressman Rahm Emanuel, who served as Obama’s chief of staff before being elected Mayor of Chicago. The jury began deliberating on June 10. Blagojevich was previously found guilty [JURIST report] last year of making false statements to the FBI, but the jury remained deadlocked on 23 additional charges. The prosecutors dropped some of the charges [JURIST report] to simplify the case for retrial including charges for racketeering. Prosecutors also dropped charges against Blagojevich’s brother, his chief fundraiser. Blagojevich had tried to avoid the trial in March, but a federal judge declined to formally rule on his request to cancel the trial [JURIST reports], saying that the motion was neither serious, nor did it raise a legal question. Blagojevich’s lawyers had submitted a motion [text] to cancel the ex-governor’s retrial and sentence him only on the single charge on which he was originally convicted.

In Blagojevich’s first trial, the jury deliberated for 14 days after the 11-week trial but was unable to reach a consensus on all but one of the charges. According to reports, there was a lone holdout [Chicago Tribune report] on the convictions regarding the sale of Obama’s Senate seat. The female juror allegedly stated that due to the lack of a “smoking gun” she was unable to convict Blagojevich of the crimes. Last September, lawyers for Blagojevich asked the judge to throw out the sole conviction [JURIST report], stating that the government failed to meet its required burden of proof and that cross-examinations by the defense were plagued by “obstructionist” objections [Chicago Tribune report], which the court continuously sustained. In January 2009, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously [JURIST report] to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office. Blagojevich and his former chief of staff John Harris were initially arrested [JURIST report] in December 2008.