Don't Get Me Started!
August 17, 2010 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Blago walks, mostly. Short and sweet: Jury was hung on 23 counts, convicted him on 1. That count was "lying to federal investigators" when he told them that he didn't care about nor was involved with fundraising. Max jailtime for this one is 5 years. They were, reportedly, 11-1 on all others.

This is my favorite piece of damning evidence. (PDF with embedded wma file) We learn his opinion on (then President-elect) Obama. We learn where he'd like to be ambassador to. We learn what he thinks about his father in law. (listen for Patti dropping the phone at that point) We learn that he doesn't like his job as the chief executive of the 5th most populous state in the union. We learn what he feels like he's doing to his children (12:30). Skip to 7:30 for the start of the more interesting things, 9:00 for the good stuff. (Contains Executive Profanity!)

(We also see tiny moments of him trying to do the right thing, but they are shockingly rare, and overridden by his desire for enrichment.)

View everything here, if you are so inclined.

The Justice Department intends to refile asap.
posted by gjc (58 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
This guy is amazing.
posted by swift at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2010


There may have been a hung jury on these charges, but his hairpiece was convicted of crimes against conscience. The fashion police are on their way.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2010


Apparently there was only one holdout.
posted by enn at 7:00 PM on August 17, 2010


(Among the jurors, I mean.)
posted by enn at 7:00 PM on August 17, 2010


Brilliant employment of the Dumbfucca Defense: "As much as I like him, this is a man who considered appointing Oprah Winfrey!" [Blagojevich's attorney] said. "No one's going to say he's the sharpest knife in the drawer."
posted by Rhaomi at 7:02 PM on August 17, 2010


The fact that they were eleven to one guilty on the other twenty-three counts says to me, as a lawyer, that they had one guy that just wasn't going to convict, regardless of the evidence. More "jury nullification" than "inconclusive evidence." I'm guessing they got him to bend on the one count so that they'd have something to show for their few weeks of jury duty.
posted by valkyryn at 7:02 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


One Angry Man.
posted by anthill at 7:03 PM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, not walk, exactly. Mistrial with planned retrial. That's not the same as a not guilty.
posted by kafziel at 7:03 PM on August 17, 2010


guy as shady and corrupt as blago and one hold out looks like there might be something in it for the one person.
posted by nadawi at 7:07 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


So they managed to get a juror, then.
posted by carter at 7:07 PM on August 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Did that one holdout get any phone calls from a carefully-not-panicking spouse about how the kids are FINE JUST FINE BTW THAT BLAGO GUY IS TOTALLY INNOCENT
posted by DU at 7:08 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


'Runaway Jury.'
posted by ericb at 7:11 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sure the prosecutor will be particularly careful during jury selection the next time.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:12 PM on August 17, 2010


Lest we forget -- 'The Juror.'
posted by ericb at 7:13 PM on August 17, 2010


I'm sure the prosecutor will be particularly careful during jury selection the next time.

I'm sure the jurors will be watched VERY carefully next time.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:16 PM on August 17, 2010


Jury Duty.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:21 PM on August 17, 2010


nadawi: guy as shady and corrupt as blago and one hold out looks like there might be something in it for the one person.

Yes, that has been the buzz around the city since the deliberations started taking so long.

I haven't watched much of the local media yet, but while he and his lawyers kept talking about how this is a waste of time as police and innocent children are getting shot in the streets, the West Side was already talking about how he was taking advantage of their community situation is a gross manner and he should be retried ASAP. I sure hope that's the prevailing opinion.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:25 PM on August 17, 2010


One Angry Man.

Actually, the article states that it was a female juror who held out.
posted by waitingtoderail at 7:33 PM on August 17, 2010


Was it really 11-1 on all other counts? I read on the Trib's website that it was 11-1 on the sale of the Senate seat and that the other counts had varying numbers.

Of course, this is also the news site that had a giant headline stating BLAGO GUILTY and then "of one count" in tiny letters underneath, so, you know, grain of salt.
posted by sugarfish at 7:33 PM on August 17, 2010


So yeah, all signs point to this juror. Normally I would be like, come on, no criminal would be stupid enough to brazenly . . .

. . . then I remember who we're talking about. But I still hold out hope that this is just some nutball juror exercising his or her God-Given American Right to derail entire court cases by being the lone holdout, driven by some wacko personal conscience.

That's the other thing about Blago, he might actually be that lucky.
posted by chaff at 7:35 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think that information is available, so we have to go with what the jurors self-report. When I read it, the Sun Times article had one juror saying 11-1.
posted by gjc at 7:37 PM on August 17, 2010


Uh wait, it looks like sugarfish is right. I scanned a bunch of articles and the best I can find is that they were 11-1 on "three key counts", which is waaaay less hinky.

gjc I can't find support for this statement: "11-1 on all others. " in your links. Somebody get me a bucket of water for this pitchfork.
posted by chaff at 7:44 PM on August 17, 2010


They changed it. The 8th paragraph used to look like this one: Juror Erik Sarnello, of Itasca, said the panel was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting on the rest of the charges. A female holdout “just didn’t see what we all saw,” said Sarnello, 21.

At that time, the story didn't have reports from any of the other jurors. Damned liberal media!
posted by gjc at 7:50 PM on August 17, 2010


They were, reportedly, 11-1 on all others

That's factually incorrect. If you review the story, you'll see the foreperson says only that the senate seat count was 11-1 and that he declined to speak on the rest of the votes.

I watched the coverage on WGN all day and one of the lawyer-commentators said that last week when the news of the hung jury came down, that it turned out that many of the counts were split pretty evenly. Indeed, last week they said they had come to agreement on two counts. But today, they were only agreed on one. This is not a lone hold-out juror by any means.

Instead, this was a terrible case that should have never been brought. There are simply no cohate crimes here. None.

I'm a lawyer and my dad is an Administrative Law Judge in Chicago. The talk in the courthouses and amongst the lawyers has been for months about how terribly weak the state's case was.

What blew me away was how crazy the media was reporting this story. They had the guy convicted before the evidence was heard in open court. And every time I looked at the evidence, I saw no completed crime. The other thing is that Federal Prosecutors have been stretching the "honest services" law farther and farther out. And this year the Supreme Court knocked them back and said they had been going way too far.

That's why there won't be a retrial. Because Blago's lawyers are going to get the charges dismissed because the law has been dialed way back.

In my job, I've gotten the chance to view a lot of reporters in action on legal issues. They almost always get complex cases way wrong based on their evaluation of the last lawyer who talked to them. Normally, you can judge what's going on in a regular situation based on the tell of how people talk about it.

Not so the law. It is complex and difficult and there are too many factors to be included in a reporter's story. So they never get the detail right. That's what happened here. They oversold a case that would sell papers. But the case was never really that good.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:17 PM on August 17, 2010 [14 favorites]


Think of this another way. Blago's lawyers didn't even put on a case and got a hung jury.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:18 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also the guy on WGN was saying that he felt that Blago had a good chance on appeal on the 18 U.S.C. sec. 1001 charge. In essence in an untaped, unstenoed FBI interview he said that in 2005. That's the "lie" he gave. Having also worked on sec 1001 cases, that's really, really weak. You need an intent to lie on that. Its such a throwaway statement it will be hard for the conviction to hold up on appeal.

Blago will walk, will run again for governor and be totally wiped out in the primary.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:21 PM on August 17, 2010


There are simply no cohate crimes here.

And arguably no choate crimes, either. (Linked for the benefit of the non-lawyers in the house).
posted by jedicus at 8:22 PM on August 17, 2010


Can he run for governor, Ironmouth? I thought he couldn't because of the way he was removed from office.

In reading the newspaper comment sections, it seems like a lot of people are starting to question the costs of trying him again. I wonder what kind of public support there would be for another trial.
posted by sugarfish at 8:26 PM on August 17, 2010


Amazing and not surprising at the same time.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:37 PM on August 17, 2010


Certainly a lot of the peripheral charges seemed weak.

I recall a lot of speculation at the time of the arrest that Fitzgerald had hurt his case on the bribery charges by arresting Blagojevich before any actual quid-pro-quo for the senate seat could take place. Presumably he did so because he wanted to prevent a senator actually being appointed in exchange for anything. It seems pretty problematic if the law prevents the successful prosecution of public officials until after the damage is done — after all, you can't force someone to unvote for a bill or unappoint somebody as part of his sentence.
posted by enn at 8:40 PM on August 17, 2010


Can he run for governor, Ironmouth? I thought he couldn't because of the way he was removed from office.

In reading the newspaper comment sections, it seems like a lot of people are starting to question the costs of trying him again. I wonder what kind of public support there would be for another trial.


I forgot about that. I'd have to check.

They shouldn't try him again because they aren't going to get a conviction. Fitz really blew this one. But he was caught by the leak of the Trib about the wiretapping. He really didn't have anything there and was waiting for a deal to go down. Which it never did. The Trib held off that story for several weeks at his request. Eventually they decided to run it. What they normally do in those situations is call Fitz and Blago each for comment. Fitz turned to writing the criminal complaint in one night.

Blago turned to getting his ass out of the sling. He immediately called his main rival, Ill. House Speaker Mike Madigan, a heavyweight pol and suggested giving the seat to Madigan's daughter Lisa, also a big pol, in exchange for votes on a stalled jobs bill. That created the cover of a political deal. He then formally offered the seat to Lisa Madigan that morning. He was arrested soon after. But now he could say he was considering multiple options and decided to make that deal out of all the ones he was shooting the breeze over.

In short, this case was over when he got the call from the Trib editors that they were running the wiretap story. Fitz never had a chance.

It was awesome watching Sam Adams Jr. and Sr. today in the presser. Sam Jr. said it was nobody's fault but his that Blago was convicted on the 1001 count. Sam Sr. got up to the mike a few minutes later and said his son was wrong, that it was his, Sam Sr's fault and not his son's. Classic.

People laugh at those two, think they are clowns. They are two of the best criminal lawyers in the business. They were the only ones who got their judge off in the Operation Graylord federal prosecution last year.

Another thing. Most of the criminal lawyers, state prosecutors included, hate the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois. They have a terrible reputation of overcharging and leaning on defendants in excessive ways. Down at 26th and California, the feds are not looked on well.

I'd be surprised to see a retrial. It would be colossally stupid.

sorry about my bad spelling, counselor!
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blago will walk, will run again for governor and be totally wiped out in the primary.

Ironmouth, with all due respect (to whatever degree that might be) to you and your dad's legal expertise, you're talking out an orifice that isn't designed for that purpose.

Rod humiliated our state. He's profoundly embarrassed, with a few exceptions, anyone and everyone who's voted or worked for him or donated to his campaigns, including the President of the United States and his very powerful, very ruthless chief of staff. Even for Illinois, he was an exceptionally incompetent and arrogant chief executive; most of the more infamous tapes are from the days after he'd given up on his job and was casting about for something that was more lucrative and less stressful than being governor, after he'd pissed away his political support on cheap publicity stunts and irresponsible, unfunded programs. He's basically Sarah Palin without the funding from Fox & Co.

And--here's the important part--whether or not the lack of a "completed crime" has the same legal weight as, say, attempted murder, there's no doubt that he tried to sell things to anyone with a checkbook and a heartbeat; even Palin wasn't dumb enough to get solidly tied to anything worse than trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. He may have had some random starfuckers show up to the trial, but as far as actually getting any supporters, he's not anywhere near Palinesque numbers (which aren't anywhere near enough for her to be considered a serious contender for the GOP nomination in '12). He can run for the nomination in the same way that that sad, apparently brain damaged man down in Tennessee ran for his.

He might, possibly, win an appeal. That may or may not help Pat Quinn against Bill Brady, who seems to have no plan for Illinois other than the usual failed GOP tactics of cutting (or at least freezing) taxes and social programs; I really wish that Pat would mention that the last Republican governor is still in jail. But Rod is over. The only question is whether he'll run out of money before or after the retrials and probably endless lawsuits, a la OJ. Otherwise, he's already becoming yesterday's punchline.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:47 PM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


He can't run for governor or any other office in Illinois because he was impeached.

About his statement today:
"That very prosecutor said that he was stopping a 'crime spree' before it happened. Well, this jury just showed you . . . notwithstanding the fact that the government through everything but the kitchen sink at me, that, on every count except for one - on every charge except for one -- they could not prove that I did anything wrong."

The lone exception, Blagojevich said, was a "nebulous charge from five years ago" -- lying to the FBI.
Jeez, Fitzgerald, that was five years ago! Can't you just give it a rest already!
posted by hydrophonic at 8:48 PM on August 17, 2010


Presumably he did so because he wanted to prevent a senator actually being appointed in exchange for anything. It seems pretty problematic if the law prevents the successful prosecution of public officials until after the damage is done — after all, you can't force someone to unvote for a bill or unappoint somebody as part of his sentence.

That was all bullshit. He even knew it. I had a funny feeling about it when he said it.

My opinion of Fitz has gone steadily downhill. I thought he was awesome at first, but the longer I practiced law, I started to get the feeling that he wasn't all he was cracked up to be. This sealed it for me. He gets tunnel vision.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:49 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeez, Fitzgerald, that was five years ago! Can't you just give it a rest already!

Sam Adam Sr. is a hell of a lawyer. That charge is nebulous as hell. I had a client with a much worse case under the same statute and they dropped it. He said he didn't care who donated to him politically or words to that effect. Its not a good charge and it won't stick.

Having said that, who the hell advised him to go and talk to the FBI in 2005? The stupidest thing I've ever seen. And when the FBI said no stenographer or tape, they told Blago to go ahead. The entire charge is based on the FBI hand-written notes from the conversation. There are no defendant attorney notes (what kind of idiot does that!--no steno, no tape, no notes!)

If he gets it overturned on appeal, it will be hard to make it stick. Remember, he put on no defense to any of the charges and still walked out. If he does get it overturned, a retrial will be separate and they will dispute he ever said that and there will be a swearing contest because of no tape.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:55 PM on August 17, 2010


[On a minor note: PDF with embedded WMA file? Good god, who thought of this ridiculous, tortuous format? Did they let the dude pick the format himself? Also, does anybody know how to strip WMA files out of PDF files? I'm on Linux, and I have all the right codecs, but this one is sort of beyond me right now. I guess I'll look around the internet. A pity, 'cuz I'd like to hear this one.]
posted by koeselitz at 8:58 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


there's no doubt that he tried to sell things to anyone with a checkbook and a heartbeat

No, he did not. All due respect to your legal skills, but you are talking about a very specific thing right there. He didn't do it. This is not an area of law where everyday experience can really guide a layman. A short bit of research and anyone can see it, but you can't just read those transcripts and say he "tried."

We're lawyers. We take our jobs seriously. And my dad never said the case was bad, he said that all the other lawyers he was talking to were saying it. Let's get that straight.

All the rest you said about his stewardship as governor is true. But none of that makes these charges against him factually true. there are important reasons why we have these protections. I don't like Blago one bit, but I do like my criminals actually guilty of the crimes they've committed.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:00 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack: “And--here's the important part--whether or not the lack of a "completed crime" has the same legal weight as, say, attempted murder, there's no doubt that he tried to sell things to anyone with a checkbook and a heartbeat...”

Ironmouth: “No, he did not. All due respect to your legal skills, but you are talking about a very specific thing right there.”

Since when is this about law? This is politics.
posted by koeselitz at 9:28 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


While some votes were split 7-5, 6-6 or 9-3, the most explosive of the charges — that Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat — came down to a single hold-out vote, jurors said.

I figure that the prosecution was really counting on Blagojevich to testify and then they were going to slam him on rebuttals. When he didn't, they couldn't call any of their rebuttal witnesses, right? Is that a proper read of the situation or am I simplifying things?
posted by sugarfish at 9:30 PM on August 17, 2010


I was wondering about that strategy of not testifying. It seems to have worked.

Report was that the prosecutors, expecting to cross-examine, saved a lot of the best stuff for that, so the case wasn't the strongest they could have made.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:44 PM on August 17, 2010


PDF with embedded WMA file? Good god, who thought of this ridiculous, tortuous format?

It actually makes sense, if you have Adobe Reader. The transcript is text, the WMA file is an attachment.

Also, does anybody know how to strip WMA files out of PDF files?

Within Adobe Reader, you just right-click on the attachment and save it. I have no idea how you'd work with it outside of Reader. I can send it to you if you like, I'll check memail in the morning.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:57 PM on August 17, 2010


Well, Ironmouth, I think that we're standing on either side of an abyss that divides "what he seems to have clearly been trying to do, from almost any non-lawyer's perspective" from "what the strict letter of the law states."
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:11 PM on August 17, 2010


me & my monkey: “Within Adobe Reader, you just right-click on the attachment and save it. I have no idea how you'd work with it outside of Reader. I can send it to you if you like, I'll check memail in the morning.”

Well, the thing is that Adobe Reader – the absolute spawn of Satan, which is to be avoided at all costs – is the only program I can find right now that can extract wmas from pdfs. And yes, this is a stupid, stupid format – can you picture mp3s that store whole novels you can only access if you open them with a certain proprietary program? Or dbf files embedded in videos? No. This is a really weird way of mixing formats.

Anyway, there is apparently a version of Reader for Linux. (I've already uninstalled it again. Heh.) I grabbed all the audio files and converted them – I'll post 'em once ffmpeg finishes converting.
posted by koeselitz at 11:23 PM on August 17, 2010


"what he seems to have clearly been trying to do, from almost any non-lawyer's perspective" from "what the strict letter of the law states."

Only one of our positions counts however.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:51 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, like I said... the world isn't a courtroom. And politics, not law, will probably win.

Also, neither politics nor law has much to do with justice in this case.
posted by koeselitz at 11:56 PM on August 17, 2010


And Ironmouth: do you really think Rod Blagojevich is thinking about this from a lawyer's perspective?
posted by koeselitz at 11:57 PM on August 17, 2010


Okay, drop.io has decided it hates me (which is understandable) but here is the first half (or so) of the 104 different audio files of the Blagojevich wiretaps: 1, 2.
posted by koeselitz at 12:58 AM on August 18, 2010


I'd imagine Rod is looking at his legal problems from the perspective his lawyer has given him, and his social/political problems from whatever view he has that makes him think that it's ok to do whatever you want as governor as long as it's not prosecutable. In his mind, he's probably still viewing things from the governor's seat.
posted by mikeh at 5:12 AM on August 18, 2010


The whole problem stems from the original indictment. Remember, these were the days between the election and the inaguration and they jumped the gun before Blagojevich could appoint someone as senator. But in typical Rod Blagojevich fashion he went ahead and appointed Roland Burris to get a sideshow going that would deflect attention from the original charges.

Blago is no more crooked than most around here, but is a rogue crook. He's not playing along and is entirely unpredictable. That is the subtext that is in every juror's mind. If he had at least given the appearance of taking counsel from Democratic leadership, there would not have been the push to bring the indictment when they did.

Personally, I wish they could have found a charge that they could make stick that would involve a long jail sentence, so I would not have to see his face. But that is not what the American jurisprudence system is for. Reading this daily blog from a court watcher had me pretty convinced that the lying to the FBI charge was the only one that would stick.
posted by readery at 5:18 AM on August 18, 2010


Scott Turow in today's New York Times. Political campaign funding is inherently corrupt.
posted by bukvich at 5:43 AM on August 18, 2010


Ironmouth, all there needed to be to prove the racketeering and conspiracy charges was for him to engage in acts of furtherance, right? Just wanting to commit a crime is not illegal, of course. But when he does or says something that moves the crime from just an idea to making a plan, that is conspiracy. Discussing how he can improve his family's financial situation in the context of making an executive appointment is that.

Politicians can make political deals- I'll appoint your guy if you pass my legislation, for example. But they can't make deals using the power of their office to enrich themselves or their campaign fund.

I'll agree that this was a complicated case that they messed up, strategy wise. They made the mistake of believing what he said: that he would testify. So they planned a strategy to be able to impeach anything Blago says on cross. It worked (in the courtroom) for Robert. But the jury was stuck- to convict Robert, they had to convict Milorad first.

Even if this is the end of the prosecution, Fitzgerald did the right thing. He thought a crime was about to occur, and he arrested the guy on the conspiracy so the crime wouldn't happen. That's what we want in law enforcement. We don't want them letting people commit crimes just to make their jobs easier later.
posted by gjc at 5:52 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fitzgerald did the right thing

I agree. I was disappointed in the hung jury, but I was thinking about it last night and decided that overall, the outcome is pretty good for us. We got a terrible politician removed from office. He used to spend $400,000 on clothes for himself and his wife, and now he's broke. He's been publicly humiliated, even if he refuses to acknowledge it (or maybe he doesn't even realize it.) There's a good chance he'll serve jail time for that one charge, which hopefully will keep him off the public radar long enough to diminish his celebrity. If we're lucky that will be enough to keep him off any reality shows. In any case, there will probably be a retrial.

It's clear that he wanted to commit the crimes because he said so. It's not so clear whether he (1) tried, or that he (2) didn't try and it was all talk, or he (3) tried and did so poorly that it doesn't count. That last possibility was crucial to the defense, but in Judge Zagel's instructions to the jury, he seemed to be telling them that (3) is not an option.
"A conspiracy may be committed even if its purpose is not accomplished," the judge reads steadily, and later, "A group may continue to be an enterprise even if it changes membership by gaining or losing members over time."
On Chicago Public Radio I heard that one of his staff testified that they often ignored Blago's requests because they were so often stupid ideas. Saved by his own incompetence.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:24 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's basically Sarah Palin without the funding from Fox & Co.

That's really unfair. Sarah Palin has charisma.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:38 AM on August 18, 2010


But I still hold out hope that this is just some nutball juror exercising his or her God-Given American Right to derail entire court cases by being the lone holdout, driven by some wacko personal conscience a desire for 15 minutes of fame and a reality show: Desperate Jurors of Chicago.

FTFY, as they say.
posted by notswedish at 1:52 PM on August 18, 2010


This guy is amazing.

No, no he's not. This guy is amateur hour for corrupt politicians. He knew he was under federal investigation and he still said all of that ridiculous stuff. Apparently, the provisions of RICO concerning wiretaps were lost on him.

The charge he was convicted of is apparently similar to one of the counts Martha Stewart was convicted on.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:42 PM on August 18, 2010


The animated view from Taiwan.
posted by Nelson at 1:07 PM on August 20, 2010


What?!? (Blago to appear at Wizard World Chicago.)
posted by kmz at 7:13 PM on August 20, 2010


Christ. I have half a mind to dress up like Elvis and tell him to fuck off to his face.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:57 PM on August 20, 2010


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