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Blagojevich convicted on one count and faces retrial

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, with wife Patti, speaks to the media after the verdict on Tuesday. The jury found him guilty of lying to federal agents but deadlocked on 23 other charges.

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, with wife Patti, speaks to the media after the verdict on Tuesday. The jury found him guilty of lying to federal agents but deadlocked on 23 other charges.

CHICAGO — A federal jury deadlocked Tuesday on all but one of 24 charges against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, including the most explosive of all — that he tried to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Blagojevich was convicted on a single, less serious count of lying to federal agents.

Prosecutors pledged to retry the case as soon as possible.

"This jury shows you that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me," Blagojevich said outside court. "They could not prove I did anything wrong — except for one nebulous charge from five years ago."

But 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.

Fellow 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 won 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.

The verdict came on the 14th day of deliberations, ending an 11-week trial during which a foul-mouthed Blagojevich was heard on secret FBI wiretap tapes saying the power to name a senator was "(expletive) golden" and that he wasn't going to give it up "for (expletive) nothing."

The count on which Blagojevich was convicted included accusations that he lied to federal agents when he said he did not track campaign contributions. But the jury did not convict him on a related allegation that he kept a "firewall" between political campaigns and government work. It carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. Some of the more serious charges, such as racketeering, carried up to a 20-year penalty.

It had been clear jurors were struggling with the case. Last week, they told Judge James B. Zagel they had reached a unanimous decision on just two counts and had not even considered 11 others.

Jury foreman James Matsumoto said while he voted to convict Blagojevich and his brother on all counts, he knew from the first day of deliberations that the jury would have trouble coming to unanimous agreement.

Robert Blagojevich said the jury's conclusion showed he's been "an innocent target of the federal government" all along.

Blagojevich convicted on one count and faces retrial 08/18/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 12:25am]

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