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Jury begins deliberations in Blagojevich trial

From Katherine Wojtecki, CNN
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Blagojevich: It's in the jury's hands
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The former governor did not take the stand in his own defense
  • He's charged with 24 counts including wire fraud and attempted extortion
  • Blagojevich has maintained his innocence
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Chicago, Illinois (CNN) -- Jurors in the federal corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich began deliberating Wednesday.

The jury members were instructed by the judge before they received the case just before noon (1 p.m. ET). Testimony wrapped up last week.

The ousted governor did not take the stand in his own defense, saying it was his decision, based on his attorneys' advice, not to do so.

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

Blagojevich faces 24 counts including racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion and bribery. The two-term Democrat was removed from office in January 2009 amid accusations that he had attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been occupied by Barack Obama before he became president.

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

The count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while the count of solicitation of bribery carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The former governor's brother, Robert Blagojevich, testified Tuesday that the governor was "trying to politically work something to his benefit" in handling the 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."

Robert Blagojevich is himself charged with wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and bribery conspiracy and is on trial with his brother. One count of wire fraud against him was thrown out Wednesday before jury instructions began.

Prosecutors argued that Rod Blagojevich and his inner circle engaged in a near-constant conspiracy of extortion and kickbacks after his 2002 election.