Former US governor found guilty of lying to federal agents

David Usborne,Us Editor
Saturday 22 October 2011 22:44

A jury in Chicago last night found the former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, guilty of only one count in his high-profile corruption trial but were unable to reach agreement on a full 23 remaining counts leaving the judge to declare a partial mistrial.

It amounted to something close to a victory for Blagojevich. The guilty verdict related to allegations that he lied to the FBI when he was under investigation on various charges of corruption and bribery, including attempting to sell the US Senate seat vacated in his state by Barack Obama when he was elected president.

Nonetheless the one guilty verdict still left the former governor a convicted felon which alone could imply a prison sentence of as much as five years and a fine of up to $250,000 (£160,000).

The federal government said moreover that prosecutors will seek a new trial on the remaining charges. A different jury could respond quite differently a second time around.

But the government will suffer serious embarrassment that a jury was unable to reach agreement on the vast majority of the charges and prosecutors will doubtless have to change strategy dramatically when pursuing those charges in a retrial, which included everything from bribery to racketeering, conspiracy and extortion.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Blagojevich, 53, vowed to appeal the single conviction against him and said he as the victim of persecution by the federal government.

"This jury shows you that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me," he said. "They could not prove I did anything wrong – except for one nebulous charge from five years ago."

Blagojevich was ousted from his post last year by the state legislature and has used the interim as his trial date approached to promote himself as a future reality TV star.

"It is not much of a surprise that the jury returned a guilty verdict on that count," Daniel Purdom, at the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Chicago, told Reuters. "It is much easier to prove that someone made false statements than it is to prove there was a conspiracy."

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