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Blagojevich convicted on corruption charges

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Rowlands: Blagojevich clearly upset
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "We felt it was very clear he was trying to make a trade for the Senate seat," says Juror 140
  • "I frankly am stunned," Blagojevich says
  • Jury convicts former Illinois governor of 17 public corruption counts
  • Rod Blagojevich is acquitted on one count, the jury couldn't decide two others

Chicago (CNN) -- Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted Monday on 17 of the 20 public corruption charges against him related to his attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat held by Barack Obama before he resigned to become president.

The 11 women and one man reached the verdicts on their 10th day of deliberation in the trial, which began April 20. As the verdicts were read, Blagojevich turned to look back at his wife, Patti, who dropped into her seat. None of the jurors would look at the defendant as the verdicts were being read.

He was found guilty of all 10 counts involving wire fraud -- each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The other 10 involved extortion and bribery. Most of the counts have a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The jury acquitted Blagojevich on one count of bribery and was unable to reach verdicts on two counts of attempted extortion.

"I frankly am stunned," an uncharacteristically muted Blagojevich told reporters as he left the courtroom hand-in-hand with his wife. "There's not much left to say, other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out. I'm sure we'll be seeing you guys again."

Blagojevich arrives at court for verdict
June 2011: Blagojevich case goes to jury
2010: Blagojevich convicted on one count
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A few minutes later, as he and his wife emerged from an SUV on the street outside his house, he shook hands with a group of well-wishers, some of whom applauded him. "It's very meaningful to feel the support of the people," he told a throng of reporters. "It's a very meaningful thing. That sadness that I feel and the disappointment and the shock, Patti and I have to discuss this with our children, our little girls, and start planning for the future."

Their daughters are ages 11 and 14.

Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Richard Kling predicted that Blagojevich would wind up being sentenced to anywhere between six and 11 years. That calculation is reached by a mathematical formula, he said. "You punch in who he is, what he did," he said.

After delivering their verdict, the jurors addressed the news media. "We felt it was very clear he was trying to make a trade for the Senate seat," one juror said.

Another juror said, "We'd tried everything to find him not guilty, but the evidence was there."

The forewoman, a retired director of music and liturgy at a church, said the experience left her with a negative view of politics in general. "I told my husband that if he was running for politics he'd probably have to find a new wife," she said.

Blagojevich becomes the second consecutive Illinois governor convicted of corruption. Former Gov. George Ryan is serving time in federal prison.

"We hope that next time anyone who hears any inkling of such activity would come forward to tell us," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters. "People should be offended by being shaken down and should come forward and report it to us."

The current governor, Pat Quinn, called for an ethics initiative in the state. "Today's conviction only strengthens my resolve to push this effort forward," he told reporters. "I'm very sorry that happened to their family but you have to be accountable for your deeds. Unfortunately, former Gov. Blagojevich committed crimes, according to a jury."

Last August, after a two-month trial and 14 days of deliberation, another jury deadlocked on 23 of the 24 charges Blagojevich then faced. They found him guilty on one count of lying to FBI investigators, a conviction that could carry a prison sentence of five years.

The accusation that Blagojevich tried to profit as he considered whom to appoint to succeed Obama, among other allegations, prompted his impeachment by Illinois' House of Representatives and his removal from office by the state Senate in 2009.

Blagojevich was taken into federal custody in December 2008, less than two years into his second term as governor. A federal grand jury indicted in him April 2009.

At the time of his arrest, prosecutors said court-authorized wiretaps caught Blagojevich offering Obama's Senate seat in exchange for personal gain, including a job with a nonprofit or union organization, corporate board posts for his wife, campaign contributions or a post in Obama's administration.

He expressed frustration, according to prosecutors, that Obama transition officials were "not willing to give me anything except appreciation."

"I've got this thing and it's (expletive) golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing. I'm not gonna do it," prosecutors quoted Blagojevich as saying.

Blagojevich also considered appointing himself to the post, mulling whether he might be better off being indicted as a senator rather than governor, and saying contacts he would make in the federal job would benefit him later, according to prosecutors.

Aside from the charges of trying to sell the Senate seat, prosecutors also accused Blagojevich of using his position to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and his campaign in exchange for jobs, contracts and appointments to state boards to supporters.

They accused Blagojevich of accelerating the scheme in 2008 to accumulate funds before a new state ethics law would have limited his ability to raise money from people and companies that were doing business with the state.

Along with Blagojevich, prosecutors initially also charged his brother, Robert Blagojevich, with one count of wire fraud, one count of extortion conspiracy, one count of attempted extortion and one count of bribery conspiracy in connection with his brother's alleged Senate-seat-selling plan.

But a week after jurors came back from the first trial deadlocked on most of the counts against Rod Blagojevich and all the charges against his brother, prosecutors dropped charges against Robert Blagojevich.

Blagojevich's defense argued that he just liked to talk and that he ended up with nothing.

The former Cook County, Illinois, assistant prosecutor, state representative and Golden Gloves boxer had remained in the public eye since his removal from office, appearing in a Chicago comedy show, releasing an autobiography, and competing on the TV show "Celebrity Apprentice."

 
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