Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Friday that he has no intention of accepting a plea deal to avoid a retrial on political corruption charges and harshly criticized the federal prosecutors who failed to win convictions on 23 of the 24 charges against him.
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“I’m absolutely very determined to seek vindication,” Blagojevich told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira on Friday during his first live television interview since a Chicago jury convicted him of lying to the FBI. “I have done absolutely nothing wrong. This is a persecution by a prosecutor who for six years tried to persecute me.”
Pressed by Vieira about whether he accepted any responsibility for recorded phone conversations that prosecutors took to mean he was trying to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, Blagojevich said he would be more careful about whom he trusted when engaging in “political horse-trading.”
“So you take no responsibility then, governor, for anything that’s happened to you?” Vieira asked.
“I would say that looking back, if I could change some things ... Certain people that I put faith in and trusted, advisers and different people.”
Blagojevich insisted again that he was merely acting like a politician and never intended to gain financially from his powerful position.
He challenged prosecutors to release all of the evidence they had gathered against him, including tapes from the days leading up to his December 2008 arrest. He says those tapes would reveal the hard work he says he was doing to try to create jobs and generate revenue for the people of his state.
After 14 days of deliberation, jurors found Blagojevich guilty on Tuesday of lying to federal agents, but were deadlocked on all 23 of the other, more serious, charges brought against the former Illinois governor.
Eleven of the 12 jurors reportedly voted to convict Blagojevich of trying to sell the seat, with one woman holding out because she believed he was only talking politics.
“For a lot of us, the Senate seat was the most obvious,” juror Erik Sarnello told the Associated Press, adding that the lone juror “just didn’t see what we all saw.”
Blagojevich: Lone juror was right
On Friday, Blagojevich praised the lone holdout for her “good judgment.”
“I’ve always had a deep, abiding faith in God,” Blagojevich said. “And when I look at that, it just confirms again, praise God.”
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said Wednesday that federal prosecutors intend to retry the case in order to pursue the 23 remaining charges, which include bribery, racketeering and wiretapping.
Blagojevich guilty on one count; mistrial on rest
The jury was 11-1 in favor of convicting the former Illinois governor of a more serious count, a juror says.
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Jury foreman James Matsumoto, who voted to find Blagojevich guilty on all counts, told TODAY on Wednesday that he supports a retrial but believes the prosecution needs to streamline its case and rely less on witness testimony, which, according to Matsumoto, was sometimes very weak.
Blagojevich said on Friday he will appeal the single conviction, which carries a penalty of up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine. Noting that his lawyers did not present a defense, Blagojevich said he would not second-guess the decisions of lawyers who delivered what he called a defeat for the government.
“My lawyers are fantastic and they’re great and they did something nobody ever does,” Blagojevich said.
As for another romp through the world of reality television? Blagojevich, who was fired on TV by Donald Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice” after Illinois legislators fired him, didn’t rule it out.
“If the opportunities were there, I would certainly take a look at it, of course,” Blagojevich said, adding that in cases like the current one, the government tries to squeeze money out of defendants like him.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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