Verdict Reached On 18 Counts In Blagojevich Trial
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UPDATED 06/27/11 2:11 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A verdict has been reached on all but two counts in the re-trial of deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The jury sent a note Monday morning revealing it has reached a verdict on 18 counts in the trial, and that jurors are hung on two other counts. It has not been revealed whether the verdict is guilty or not guilty, nor which specific 18 counts the jury has reached a verdict on.
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who had been hearing a mortgage fraud case while jurors deliberated, asked prosecutors and the defense if they accepted the verdict. Both teams attorneys said they did.
Zagel said he would inform the jurors that they should fill out their official verdict form for the 18 counts on which they reached agreement and the official verdict would be read later Monday.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports Blagojevich was not seen for a couple of hours after the announcement of the verdict. But his wife, Patti, was spotted through the window of his Ravenswood Manor neighborhood home, and Patti Blagojevich’s brother, Rich Mell, and sister, state Sen. Deborah Mell (D-Chicago) were also seen entering.
Then a gray sport-utility vehicle pulled away from the house a few minutes before 1 p.m. Blagojevich was inside the vehicle, along with his wife.
Blakley said before leaving, Blagojevich seemed somber and somewhat reserved, contrary to his typical upbeat personality.
But much in character, Blagojevich quoted Elvis Presley when he addressed reporters.
“It’s in God’s hands, and my hands are shaking, and my knees are weak, and I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet,” he said.
Blagojevich arrived at the Dirksen Federal Building at 1:15 p.m. He had no comment, but a throng of people surrounded him and shouted.
Blagojevich, his wife and the defense team arriving now arrived in the courtroom a few minutes later. Blagojevich shook hands with a few spectators outside the courtroom.
Prosecutors came in soon afterward, CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov reports. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, the FBI Special Agent in Charge of Chicago office, were present in the courtroom.
Blagojevich then went back into the hallway, shaking hands with reporters. Then he went to men’s room, and was still smiling, but looked concerned.
Upon returning, Blagojevich huddled with defense team in the conference room across the hall from the courtroom.
Around 1:50 p.m., reporters entered the courtroom, and those with tickets to be spectators followed.
Rod and Patti Blagojevich walked into the courtroom a few minutes after 2 p.m.
Patti Blagojevich’s brother, Rich Mell, had his arm around her as they sat in court. She looked like she was about to cry.
Rod Blagojevich looked very, very somber as he sat at the defense table, Kozlov reported.
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel and the jury still entered around 2:10 p.m., and the jury passed Zagel the verdict form.
The jury of 11 women and one man deliberated on the case for two full weeks before announcing Monday morning that it had reached a verdict on 18 charges.
The long wait for a verdict was rather unexpected after federal prosecutors streamlined the case against Blagojevich when jurors at his first trial deadlocked on all but one count against him.
James Matsumoto, the foreman for the jury in the first Blagojevich trial last year, told CBS 2′s Jim Williams he believes prosecutors presented the case much more effectively the second time around.
“I think they really streamlined the case,” Matsumoto said. “They must have listened to all of our comments from the first trial, and they came in they hit it hard, and they made it very succinct, and they focused on the selling the Senate seat first off, so I think they really did an really good job of presenting the same case to this particular jury.”
As to the outcome, Matsumoto said: “My prediction is a as good as anyone else’s, but I think at least guilty on half; guilty on half the counts.”
The prosecution’s case for Blagojevich’s retrial lasted only three weeks — half the time of its case for the first trial. But at the second trial, Blagojevich himself took the stand for seven days of testimony, which could have been a factor in the lengthy deliberations this time.
Blagojevich faced 20 charges at his retrial, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama in 2008, tried to shake down a racetrack owner for campaign in exchange for legislation to benefit the tracks, and tried to shake down the chief executive officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital in exchange for funding for the hospital.
Experts point out that the charges about the Senate seat are considered the most important by far.
“My first impression is you’re going to have a verdict on the Senate seat, which is by far the most important issue in this entire case,” said CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller. “The other four schemes, not to say they’re not important, but this is what the United States Attorney’s office wanted a verdict on.”
Miller pointed out that there is certain to be a verdict on the Senate seat charges, since they take up 12 counts, while only two counts are hung.
In the first trial, defense attorneys promised that Blagojevich would take the witness stand, and said they would also call U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and maybe even President Barack Obama.
“There was a lot of bluster and a lot of bombast, and then that trial ended with a thud unexpectedly when they decided not to put on a defense,” said political analyst Andy Shaw, president of the Better Government Association.
But this time, Blagojevich did testify, as did Jackson and now-Mayor Emanuel.
Each count of wire fraud, attempted extortion and extortion conspiracy that Blagojevich faces carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000. The bribery charges against him carry a penalty of up to 10 years each, and also a fine of $250,000.
Blagojevich has denied all wrongdoing, and if he is convicted, an appeal may follow.
–Todd Feurer, CBS 2 Web Producer