TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

Blagojevich Convicted Of Lying To Feds

Source: KATHERINE WOJTECKI, CNN - thewillnigeria.com


Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted of a relatively minor charge -- giving a false statement to federal investigators -- but the jury hung on 23 other counts.

Jurors deliberated for 14 days but could not reach a unanimous verdict on the most serious corruption counts. Jurors also could not decide on the charges against Blagojevich's brother, Robert.

Legal analysts said the result was a victory for Blagojevich and his defense.

Attorneys and spectators filed into the courtroom shortly before 5 p.m. ET to hear the verdicts in the corruption trial.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel said earlier in the day that there was a "possibility" of a verdict soon and asked that the defendants remain within a half-hour travel distance from the courthouse.

Jurors had two questions for Zagel on Tuesday. First, they asked for a copy of the oath they took when they were sent to deliberate. For that oath, jurors were asked, "Do each of you solemnly swear that you will well and truly try, and true deliverance make, in the case now in trial and render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence, so help you God?"

The second question was, "If we do not reach a consensus of a specific count, do we leave it blank or report the votes split?" Zagel told jurors if they cannot reach a unanimous verdict on any count, they should write a single statement on each count

and each juror should sign the verdict form.

Last week, the jury sent a note to Zagel indicating they were far from reaching a decision. The panel has decided on only two of the 24 counts against Blagojevich, the note said. Jurors failed to agree on 11 counts and had yet to consider 11 others involving wire fraud charges. Zagel encouraged them to continue deliberating and vote on each charge.

The former governor faces charges including racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion and bribery. A two-term Democrat, he was removed from office in January 2009 amid accusations that he attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been occupied by Barack Obama before Obama was elected president.

In one conversation recorded by federal agents, Blagojevich told an aide, "I've got this thing, and it's [expletive] golden. I'm just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing."

Conviction on the counts of wire fraud, racketeering and attempted extortion could each bring a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while a conviction on the count of solicitation of bribery would carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000. The maximum penalty for bribery conspiracy and false statements is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Blagojevich's brother, Robert, is standing trial with him on four of the charges.

Robert Blagojevich testified that his brother was "trying to politically work something to his benefit" in handling the Senate appointment but was thinking in terms of political horse-trading, not corruption.

"It didn't seem out of the ordinary, because Obama was taking a lot of people from Illinois with him to D.C.," said Robert Blagojevich, who raised money for his brother. He said the governor "was interested in the idea of being the head of Health and Human Services."

While awaiting trial, the ousted governor asserted his innocence in interviews and on Twitter, as well as during his appearances on the "Celebrity Apprentice" reality show.