Despite Rod Blagojevich’s claims of vindication after hearing that his federal jury had convicted him on only one count and deadlocked on the other 23 counts, it is apparent that his upcoming re-trial will not go well. As had been suggested in this column and elsewhere, it was one juror who objected to convicting the former Illinois Governor of Racketeering, Conspiracy and trying to sell the US Senate Seat.
After the jury’s long awaited decision, Blagojevich and his attorneys bragged that the jury had failed to convict on 23 counts. Left unsaid by Moe, Larry and Curly was the obvious: Blagojevich is now a felon. As former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski said, when you are convicted you worry that you will only be known as a felon and not for anything good that you may have done in your life. Everyone looks at you differently after you are convicted of a felony. If that hasn’t set in with Blagojevich it will when he goes to prison.
Anyone watching the press conference could attest to the fact that the conviction hit home for the former Governor’s wife, Patti, who looked stunned and a bit surprised by the conviction. We can assume that her surprise was not the same as the surprise shown by Robert Kardashian, an OJ Simpson attorney, when the not guilty verdict was read in that case. While Kardashian looked shocked, Patti looked drained, disappointed and aware of the circumstances.
Rod and his attorneys on the other hand, spent time attacking Patrick Fitzgerald, who many believe is the best US Attorney to ever serve in the Northern District of Illinois. Whether he is the best or not, he certainly is the most politically independent US Attorney.
He convicted former Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, Republican George Ryan and now, Democrat Rod Blagojevich. He also has convicted countless of other political figures at lower levels, such as Chicago Aldermen. Yet, Blago and his lawyers cast Fitzgerald as someone that is out of control, indicting people on frivolous charges. Most juries seem to disagree.
It wasn’t the first time that Blagojevich challenged Fitzgerald. He once said that he would be in court and that if Fitzgerald was “man” enough he should also show up. Nobody is really sure what manliness has to do with showing up in court but he said it as if there was going to be a duel at high noon.
Since the ill advised Blagojevich victory lap after the verdict, word has leaked out in the last few days that one lone juror held out for a not guilty verdict in 13 counts, including Racketeering and Conspiracy, which carry the longest prison sentences. Just one juror, not 11, not 8, not even 3.
Legal experts and television legal show junkies agree that it will be impossible to find a jury to vote to acquit and difficult to find another jury where one juror is able to hold up the process. At least one other juror in this jury claims that the holdout juror was not deliberating in good faith and that he thought about reporting her to the judge.
That’s what happened in the George Ryan trial and the jury was reconstituted even though deliberations had been ongoing for days.
So, what should Rod Blagojevich do?
As Mike Golic, the former Notre Dame and NFL player would say, “it is time to man up”.
He should cut a deal with the federal government. He’s already a felon and he’s facing as much as five years in a prison. While sentencing guidelines indicate that he won’t get five years, he should be aware that he could go away for a lot more if the next jury convicts him on those other 13 counts.
Rod’s brother Robert is also facing charges. In addition, while she wasn’t charged, Patti Blagojevich was named prominently and certainly could be charged in the future. A lot of attorneys believe that Fitzgerald didn’t indict Patti for accepting money for little or no work, as alleged, because he didn’t want to be cast as the bad guy who was taking both the father and mother away from their daughters.
Fitzgerald also didn’t make deals with some of the characters that could have testified against the former Governor. Springfield powerhouse and indicted fundraiser Bill Cellini awaits trial or a deal. Stuart Levine and Tony Rezko would make interesting witnesses if given the right deal. Who knows if Fitzgerald will sweeten the pot for their testimony.
If the former Governor continues on his quest, he will be convicted of other charges. Maybe not all 24 counts, but certainly more than one. His brother may also be convicted. The US Attorney’s Office may tie in court but it doesn’t often lose.
So, why not take a plea deal of five to seven years in exchange for the government dropping charges on Robert and not prosecuting Patti? The government could also agree to not pursue him for any monetary penalties. In comparison, George Ryan received a six and a half year sentence.
Of course, Blagojevich would have to put the best interests of others before himself. Considering that the failure to do that as Governor got him into this mess, nobody should bet on Blagojevich being ready to “man up”.
Dennis Brennan is an attorney and regular contributor to the dampfang.com