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Blagojevich jury reaches verdicts on 18 counts

Fornmer Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will hear the verdict in his corruption retrial.



Chicago: More than two years after his arrest while still in office, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will hear the verdict in his corruption retrial Monday, after jurors informed the judge that they had reached agreement on 18 of the 20 counts against him.

Judge James Zagel said the verdicts will be read Monday afternoon. The jury had returned to the federal courthouse Monday morning after nine days of deliberations. They had been talking through the evidence over a three-week period.

Blagojevich, 54, faces allegations that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama`s vacated US Senate seat in exchange for a high-paying job, and schemed to shake down executives for campaign donations. He took the stand at the retrial and denied all the charges.

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and dozens of reporters filed into the courtroom Monday after the court announced it had received word of a note from jurors.

"The jury has come to a decision on 18 of the 20 counts," Zagel said, clutching the note and reading it aloud. Jurors added they were deadlocked on two counts and "were confident" they couldn`t agree on those charges "even with further deliberations."

The note didn`t say which charges they agreed on or disagreed on.

Asked how he should respond, both prosecutors and the defense indicated to Zagel that the jury had deliberated long enough and should be asked to deliver the verdicts.

It was only the third note from jurors in their deliberations. The two other gave no hint about how deliberations were proceeding.

Jurors at Blagojevich`s first trial last year came back deadlocked after deliberating for 14 days. They agreed on just one of 24 counts, convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI. He faces up to five years on that conviction.

If found guilty on all the counts this time, he faces up to 350 years in prison — though guidelines would dictate he get far less.

Blagojevich was arrested in December 2008, after the FBI had wiretapped hundreds of his telephone calls at work and home. The Illinois Legislature impeached him a month later.

Both trials hinged on whether the former governor`s bold ramblings to aides and others on the telephone was just talk, as he insisted, or part of "a political crime spree," in the words of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Before a national audience, the Blagojevich saga exacerbated Illinois` reputation for graft. A conviction would mean Blagojevich is the second Illinois governor in a row facing a prison sentence for corruption. His predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, is serving a 6 1/2 year sentence.

The case also became a media spectacle, as the indicted governor and his wife, Patti, appeared on TV reality shows, and as the loquacious Blagojevich made theatrical appearances daily outside the courthouse during the first trial to profess his innocence and hug his remaining fans.

In a case full of high-level name dropping, defense attorneys in the retrial pulled into court Chicago`s new Mayor Rahm Emanuel and US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Emanuel`s appearance on the witness stand, the most anticipated by a Chicago mayor in a federal courtroom in decades, was over in just five minutes. Jackson was done in about half an hour.

Overall, though, the retrial had far less of the circus-like atmosphere that accompanied the initial trial. Blagojevich himself also was more subdued this time.

Other major differences were in the prosecution`s dramatically streamlined case, and the fact that the defense put on a case after not doing so the first time around.

Prosecutors dropped racketeering counts against the ex-governor and dismissed all charges against his then co-defendant brother, Robert Blagojevich. They presented just three weeks of evidence — half the time taken at the first trial. They called fewer witnesses, asked fewer questions and played shorter excerpts of FBI wiretaps that underpin most of the charges.

There was also a new variable at the retrial: The testimony from Blagojevich himself. At the first trial, the defense rested without calling any witnesses and Blagojevich didn`t testify despite vowing that he would.

Retrial jurors saw a deferential Blagojevich look them in the eyes and deny every allegation, telling them his talk on the recordings was mere brainstorming. This time, jurors must decide if they believe him.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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