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Image: Rod Blagojevich
Eric Y. Exit  /  AP
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks to the media outside of his home on the north side of Chicago after being convicted Tuesday on one of 24 counts in his federal corruption trial.
msnbc.com news services
updated 8/17/2010 11:13:20 PM ET 2010-08-18T03:13:20

The federal jury that found former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich guilty of just one count of lying to federal agents was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting him of more serious counts involving an alleged attempt to sell a Senate seat, two jurors said Tuesday.

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. Said fellow juror Stephen Wlodek, "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."

Albert Alschuler, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, said a large number of jurors in favor of a guilty verdict makes it "very likely the government will seek a retrial very quickly."

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."

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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.

Blagojevich vowed to appeal the single conviction and declared that he was a victim of persecution by the federal government. He told reporters that he wants the "people of Illinois to know that I did not lie to the FBI."

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.

"It was a very arduous process," Matsumoto said. "Some people looked at it and said, 'He was only talking.'"

Both Matsumoto and Sarnello bemoaned the complex case presented by prosecutors, and Matsumoto urged prosecutors to simplify their case during the retrial.

Jurors appeared more haggard Tuesday than during the trial. As they filed into the courtroom, many appeared nervous, some looking down at the floor as Zagel read the verdict form to himself, then passed it to a bailiff. They had asked earlier Tuesday for advice on filling out their verdict forms and a copy of the oath they took before deliberating.

The former governor's brother and co-defendant, Robert Blagojevich, said the jury's conclusion showed he's been "an innocent target of the federal government" all along.

"I feel strong. I feel confident. I don't feel in any way deterred. I've done nothing wrong," he told reporters at the courthouse. "I've got ultimate confidence in my acquittal."Defense attorneys had argued that Blagojevich was a big talker, but never committed a crime. They took a huge gamble by deciding not to call any witnesses — including Blagojevich, who had repeatedly promised to take the stand.

Zagel set a hearing for Aug. 26 to decide manner and timing of the retrial, which could unfold at the height of the fall campaign.

When Zagel said he would give prosecutors time to decide whether to take Blagojevich to court again, prosecutor Reid Schar spoke up instantly — almost appearing to cut the judge off.

"It is absolutely our intention to retry this," the normally reserved prosecutor said sternly, looking momentarily agitated.

While Blagojevich showed little emotion, his wife Patti seemed close to tears — shutting her eyes before the verdict and exhaling slowly to keep her composure. Just before the verdict, she pulled out two knitting needles and began working on what appeared to be a sweater.

For most of the trial, the 53-year-old Blagojevich, a perpetual campaigner and recent reality TV star, seemed cheerful. He often glided through the courthouse smiling and chatting with passers-by.

His demeanor was in contrast to his older brother, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman, who was often subdued and walked to court alone.

As he left the courthouse, Blagojevich got a huge round of applause from the courthouse crowd.

Leota Johnson, 72, of Chicago, chanted "Rod is free!" Johnson said she supports Blagojevich because she isn't convinced he did anything wrong and that pay-for-play is Chicago politics as usual.

During the trial, prosecutors relied heavily on the FBI wiretaps, in which Blagojevich spewed profanity, speculated about getting a Cabinet job in exchange for the Senate appointment. Several witnesses also testified that they felt pressured to donate money to Blagojevich's campaign in exchange for favorable state action.

"I found it offensive," Matsumoto said. "When he spends his time not doing the things a governor should do, and talks about people as if we're nothing more than someone that should vote for him or contribute to his campaign fund, it's very troubling."

Blagojevich's trial was another chapter in Illinois' history of crooked politics. His predecessor, George Ryan, was convicted of racketeering in 2006 and is serving a 6½-year-sentence.

Some had feared that the trial could harm Democrats as the party geared up for tough elections this fall.

Blagojevich's attorneys had plastered Washington and Illinois with subpoenas — including White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — but by the end of the trial, none of them had testified, sparing Democrats any potentially embarrassing testimony.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Blagojevich juror speaks out

  1. Closed captioning of: Blagojevich juror speaks out

    >>> us. good morning to you, sir.

    >> good morning to you.

    >> yesterday after the verdict, rod blagojevich said this was a persecution, they threw everything they could at me, the jury agreed the government did not prove its case. is that how you see it?

    >> personally, no. i saw it as the prosecution did prove its case. there was a difference of opinion and interpretation of the evidence and several people voted not guilty on several counts. as was mentioned there was the 11-1 for a few of the counts.

    >> that one holdout we understand was a retired woman. what was her argument against convicting the ex-governor?

    >> the argument was that he was a politician. he was talking to other politicians. sometimes his fund-raiser, sometimes his chief of staff or deputy governor, and he was just talking. she thought that no crime was being committed. it was just political talk. that was her position. we -- all of us, as a jury, respected her position and her right to have that opinion.

    >> yeah.

    >> it differed from ours.

    >> how would you describe the atmosphere in the jury room?

    >> there were times, especially later on, where the frustration level went up and there was tension, but it was always a feeling of respect for other people's opinions. so there was no shouting. there was no fighting. it was fairly amicable, our deliberations. there were times where there was anger and frustration, but overall, i would say we did respect each other.

    >> you know, you say the government did prove its case but only got a conviction on one count. what do you think was the major flaw in its case?

    >> the major flaw was probably the complexity of the case, the amount of information that we had to digest, the length of the judge's instructions to us that we had to learn legal terms, we had to learn the law and how to apply it to the evidence that was given to us either in witness testimony or in wire-tap conversations.

    >> would you like to see the prosecutors retry the case and, if so, what advice would you give them?

    >> personally, i would. if possible, to streamline the case, concentrate on areas where they have more information and not rely so much on witness testimony which was sometimes weak. that's where we split the most. the vote could be something like five guilty to seven not guilty or it would flip. sometimes it would be 9-3. so it was all over. i think it was a testimony to the jurors that they were deliberating on the basis of evidence and not through bias or discrimination or whatever they heard in the media.

    >> you know, you sound like somebody who is pretty much exhausted and glad this is over. we really appreciate you joining us this morning.

    >> thank you. you're welcome.

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