CHICAGO (CBS) — Members of the jury that convicted Rod Blagojevich of 17 corruption counts this past summer said they saw a very different man in court on Wednesday from the cocky, glad-handing politician they watched for more nearly two months at his trial.
Several jurors attended Blagojevich’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday, when he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. They said they felt a need for closure after the long trial that ended in Blagojevich’s conviction.
Connie Wilson, the forewoman of the jury from Blagojevich’s second trial, said Blagojevich was clearly not as confident and upbeat as he was throughout the trial when he faced U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Wednesday to hear his sentence.
“We saw the Rod that was the charismatic, always campaigning guy during the trial,” she said. “And today I think the weight of the world was on his shoulders. You could notice it, you could see it in his face, even in his posture.”
Karin Wilson, of Palatine, also said the man she saw in court on Wednesday was “very different” from the man who testified in his own defense for seven days, often sparring with prosecutors and the judge.
“On the stand, I think he was very glib and very manipulative and very disrespectful of the process,” Wilson said. “Today I think he was very, very somber; very serious and accepting of the situation that he’s now in.”
Jessica Hubinek, of Carol Stream, said, “The Rod Blagojevich during the trial was very hopeful, enthusiastic, personable – still acting, you know, like the politician he is. And today, just very reserved, accepting of his fate and somber. Definitely not the hopeful person that I saw during the trial.”
During the government’s sentencing argument on Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar accused Blagojevich of crafting his trial testimony to manipulate the members of the jury and appeal to their individual tastes and personalities.
Schar noted that one of the jurors at the second trial was originally from Boston, another was a librarian and another worked at a Greek restaurant and Blagojevich tried to appeal to each juror in his testimony.
The jurors agreed with Schar’s assessment of Blagojevich’s trial testimony.
John McParland, a Boston native who now lives in Villa Park, said, “We picked that up as soon as he started talking about that in the courtroom.”
“As soon as I head Boston mentioned, I’m turning to the other jurors there too, just giving them a look,” he added. “I just have it go in one ear and out the other, so it has no effect.”
Hubinek, a librarian, said, “There were times that were very obvious it was manipulation, particularly when he showed pictures of his library or talked about going to the library.”
“I knew that was probably targeted towards me,” she added. “I think that he does enjoy libraries, he does enjoy going to libraries, but I don’t know that really needed to be mentioned in his testimony.”
Jurors were somewhat divided in their reaction to the length of Blagojevich’s sentence. Some thought he would only get 8 to 10 years, while others thought it would be longer.
But the jurors did say they were sympathetic with the situation he and his family are going through, even though most doubted Blagojevich truly has accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I believed that he feels bad for his family, I think he is sorry to his family,” juror Amy Laures said. “I struggle with his words where he said ‘the jury found me guilty’ and he didn’t say, ‘I am guilty of these crimes.’ I think somewhere in his mind he still feels that he’s not guilty.”
Karin Wilson said, “I don’t think he really believes that he did anything wrong. I think he’s sorry for the situation, he’s sorry for being convicted, he’s sorry for the verdict that we rendered, but I didn’t hear him accept that what he did was really wrong.”
Even so, she said, “I’m praying for him.”
Hubinek said the jurors felt especially sorry for Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, and his daughters Annie and Amy.
“When he was speaking of his daughters and how he had to tell his daughter Amy – who is around the same age as my daughter – about the reality of the new situation, that is when I almost wanted to cry,” Hubinek said. “For his daughter, for his family, I can’t imagine what kind of pain and hardship they’re going to have to endure and what they have endured.”
Laures said it’s clear Blagojevich loves his family, but she added, “I do think though he should have thought about that before he did some of the things he did.”