Former governor convicted of trying to sell Obama's Senate seat
Tuesday 28 June 2011
Rod Blagojevich yesterday became the fourth Illinois governor in just half a century to be convicted of committing a crime, when he was found guilty on a host of corruption charges, including an attempt to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became President.
The verdict handed down by a federal court in Chicago brings down the curtain on an extraordinarily garish political career. The case hinged on FBI wiretaps of the profane and populist governor in which he demanded bribes for favours, most notoriously over Mr Obama's former seat, which had to be filled by an appointee named by the governor.
That right, Mr Blagojevich was caught saying in one call played to the court during his trial, was "golden" and that he wouldn't let it go "for nothing". Wiretap after wiretap seemed to show a governor bent only on turning his office into a source of money.
Arrested in December 2008 and removed from the governorship by impeachment the following month, Mr Blagojevich was convicted at a first trial on just one count, with the jury deadlocked on the rest. The outcome of the retrial, however, was unequivocal: conviction on 17 of 20 counts.
Shocked into something close to silence by the verdict, Mr Blagojevich asked his attorney: "What happened?" As he left the court, he told reporters he was going home to "talk to our little girls and explain things to them and then try to sort things out".
Realistically, his message to his daughters, aged 7 and 13, will be bleak. A sentencing date has yet to be set, but the former governor, who is 54, faces up to 300 years in jail for crimes ranging from mail fraud to extortion and soliciting bribes. His punishment will certainly be less, but Mr Blagojevich may have to spend much of the rest of his life behind bars.
If so it will be an ignominious end to a political career in the state that also gave America arguably its greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. First elected in 2002, Mr Blagojevich won a second term in 2006. But two years later he could claim the unofficial title of "America's most unpopular governor", with only 4 per cent of Illinois voters approving of his job performance.
After being impeached, he demeaned his former office further, sending his wife to the jungle for reality TV show I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. So poor were his managerial skills that he found himself fired on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice.
Mr Blagojevich's conduct "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave", federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said when the former governor was first arrested in 2008. Such has been the track record of recent Illinois chief executives that some have joked of a special "governors' wing" at the state prison at Joliet, near Chicago.
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...
£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...