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Inherit The Windbag: What Happened And What Now?

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Aug 18, 2010 2:00PM

You'll have to forgive us if we're a little dazed this morning. After 20 long, surreal months, it's all over. Except ... it's not. We've reached the conclusion of the ordeal known as the Blagojevich Corruption Trial but there's no closure, only expectations that The Summer Of Blago is likely going to become The Winter Of Blago and then quite possibly The Summer Of Blago 2: Electric Bugaloo. Yes, we've moved on up the board but if this were a game of Chutes & Ladders, we just hit a chute that sent us halfway back to the start.

So to recap, here's what we do know. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is, pending appeal, a convicted felon, having been found guilty on one of two statements that make up Count 24 (lying to the FBI). The maximum sentence is a $250,000 fine and five years in jail. We know Team Blago will appeal that verdict. We also know the jury was hung up on the 27 other counts, 23 against Rod and four against Robert. We know that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is hell-bent on retrying the Blago Brothers and that there will be a hearing a week from tomorrow, August 26, to set the wheels in motion. The prospect of a retrial happening in the midst of election season has state Dems worried. Secretary of State Jesse White said, "I just hope the people of the state of Illinois will not judge the members of the Democratic Party by the ills of the one individual." Gov. Quinn, himself running for reelection, said, "Clearly, today is a sad day for our state. Another former governor was convicted of a felony by a jury of 12 men and women good and true."

And now we're starting to learn a bit more about what went down behind the scenes as a few of the jurors are speaking out and signs point to a mishandling of the case by the prosecution. Foreman James Matsumoto noted the "lack of a smoking gun" and Erik Sarnello, a sophomore at College of DuPage, said the prosecution's presentation caused some problems: "They didn't follow a timeline. They jumped around."

As for how the votes broke down, there's still no official tally but there were several 11-1 counts. From the Chicago News Coop:

Matsumoto said he was in favor of convicting the former governor on all counts, and was not the only juror who felt that way. “I believe they proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Matsumoto said.

“On some counts, it was 7-5, could be 5-7. Some were 11-1. It ranged all over the place.”

When one reporter asked how often was it 11-1, Matsumoto said: “Possibly a quarter of the counts.”

Most notably, the charge against Blago for trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat of now-president Barack Obama came down to an 11-1 vote as one juror, a woman, refused to vote in favor of conviction. Said Sarnello, "Say it was a murder trial -- she wanted the video. She wanted to hear [Blagojevich] say, 'I'll give you this for that.' ... For some people, it was clear. Some people heard that. But for some, it wasn't clear.'' Another juror, Steve Wlodek, told WBEZ, "I feel like we let the people of the state down. I feel that there was some blatant disregard for the laws and our senate seat and some other bills that were out there, and justice was not served." In an even more telling moment, Sarnello said last night, "I might be a lobbyist after this. I've seen all the money they make."

And so now we come back to the (sort of) beginning. It's been over 20 months since then-governor Blagojevich was arrested and we're still not done. Another trial awaits and federal prosecutors will be leafing through transcripts, trying to figure out where they went wrong and wondering whether or not they can find 12 men and women in Cook County who are still impartial on the case against our ex-gov. And as for that ex-gov, well, he's digging in his heels for a fight even as his current defense team will likely not remain intact. But he remains defiant, saying, after the verdict came down:

“And so Patti and I, Patti and I are going to continue the fight because this fight is a lot bigger than just me and my family. This is a fight for the very freedoms that we as Americans enjoy. The right to be able to be innocent. The right to be able to do your job and to not be lied about. And so we're going to continue the fight. And again I just want to express my gratitude to the men and women of the jury and remind the people of Illinois I didn't let you down. The jury has shown the government couldn't prove that I did anything wrong. We're going to appeal that lying decision and we're hopeful that the law is on our side with regard to that.’’

So let's get comfy, this ain't over by a long shot.