Why Retry Rod and Robert Blagojevich? Enough is Enough

After all the hooplah, the Government convicted former Illiniois Governor Rod Blagojevich of just one count, making a false statement to the FBI in 2005 (now known as the "Martha Stewart" offense." It carries a maximum of five years in prison.

The jury did not agree on the RICO counts or the wire fraud, extortion, bribery, or related conspiracy and attempt counts. [More...]

This is not a win for the Government. It's a loss. What did this trial cost the taxpayers? Rod undoubtedly will go to prison on the false statement charge, isn't that enough of a pound of flesh?

With court approval, Rod's legal fees were paid with his campaign fund at reduced appointed counsel rates. The fund is now empty. If Rod uses court-appointed counsel for the next trial, it will come out of CJA funds. (Robert paid his own legal fees.)

No finding of guilty for Rod on:

* Racketeering (Count 1),
* Conspiracy to commit racketeering (Count 2),
* Wire fraud (Counts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
9, 10, 11, 12, and 13),
* Attempted Extortion (Counts 14, 15, 19, and 22),
* Conspiracy to commit extortion (Counts 17 and 21),
* Bribery (Counts 16 and 20),
* Conspiracy to commit bribery (Counts 18 and 23),

No finding of guilty for Robert on:

* Wire fraud (Counts 4 )
* Conspiracy to commit extortion (Count 21),
* Attempted extortion (Count 22),
* Conspiracy to commit bribery (Count 23).

My view: Enough is enough. The Government should drop the case on Robert entirely. As to Rod, I hope he keeps fighting.

Update: Great comment on CNN. Patrick Fitzgerald said Rod's crime spree would make Abe Lincoln turn over in his grave. He couldn't even get the jurors to turn over in their seats. This is a huge loss for the Justice Department.

Before this trial, everyone assumed Rod would be found guilty. Now the playing field has been leveled. It should be far easier to find jurors without a pre-conceived notion of guilt next time around.

< Blagojevich Verdict : Live Blog | A Defiant Rod Blagojevich: "I Didn't Lie to the FBI" >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Loss of face is only reason for retrial (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Saul on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:32:38 PM EST
    Fitz, is embarrassed and cannot admit defeat.  His reputation is at stake and will retry but only to save his reputation from this embarrassment.
    I'm no friend of Blago but he was one of many Pol that make these deals since time began.  He was just unlucky to be caught.  The funny thing that the quid pro quo was never allowed to happen.

    I say do not retry and let it go and get over it Fritz

    well said (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:36:02 PM EST

    perjury trap (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by diogenes on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:14:14 PM EST
    All they got Blago on was the perjury trap--no real crimes.  Just like Scooter Libby.

    We don't know how the jury was split (none / 0) (#22)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:43:13 PM EST
    I would say that it is unwise to jump to conclusions before we know how the jury was voting.  Everyone seems to be jumping to the conclusion that the jury rejected the case and that the split was wide, when it's actually possible that there was only a single holdout.

    If there was only a single holdout (or even a couple of holdouts) then it's entirely possible that nearly all of the jurors accepted the governments evidence as proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  If so, that's suggests today's verdict was the sort of fluke outcome prosecutors live with as a fact of life and so I think the government would (and should) retry both Blago Bros.

    On the other hand, if it's an even split or if there were essentially prosecution holdouts, then I agree it would be pointlessly vindictive and wasteful to do this again.  

    As an aside, this situation is further vindication of the defense's decision not to put on a defense.  They've now seen all of the government's best case.  They've extensively cross-examined every witness and now have significant prior statements (which is always a problem). They know now the absolute best case the government could possibly advance.  

    By contrast, the government has gained nothing from the trial.  They still don't know what the defense has or whether their witnesses are strong or shaky.  Neither Blago Bro testified.  I think the defense will start will some significant advantages if there is a retrial.


    they'll retry, (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by cpinva on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 11:12:58 PM EST
    to show they can be just as stupid and wasteful as republicans can. statistically, the odds are stacked against the DOJ in a retrial. they know it, we know it, pretty much everyone knows it. the only way this doesn't go forward is for holder to step in and put a stop to it.

    the point's been made, a few ounces of flesh have been carved, time to move on.

    I am (none / 0) (#1)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:25:27 PM EST
    with you

    So was it a win for Blago? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:28:42 PM EST
    I know the ethic of this blog, but I hate the notion that a mistrial or an acquittal is a "loss" for the government.

    The system working is a win for the government no?

    It seems to me that this is the type of thinking that erodes the presumption of innocence.

    The prosecution lost (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:30:30 PM EST
    it failed to prove 23 counts beyond a reasonable doubt.

    As to whether America lost, that's not a legal issue or my focus.


    Since there was (none / 0) (#6)
    by CoralGables on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:37:36 PM EST
    no agreement of not guilty on any of the 24 counts, couldn't it equally be said that the defense lost on all counts?

    The defense didn't even put on a case ... (none / 0) (#7)
    by robrecht on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:53:06 PM EST
    ... so it's hard to say they lost.  At worst, you could say they displayed poor judgement in not putting on a defense.  

    Not putting on a defense was the right move (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:38:30 PM EST
    I don't agree that it was poor judgment to rest without putting on a defense.  The government's case was okay but far from overwhelming---at that point, I think that, with a good close, it's pretty close to even money that the jury is going to hang or maybe even come back with a defense verdict.  That's pretty much the best position the defense can expect to be in at the close of the prosecution's case in chief.  

    Don't forget, there are some significant risks to putting on a defense case.  We don't know their assessment of their witnesses and we don't know what they actually had to go with besides the Blago Bros themselves.  And we don't know what the government was holding for rebuttal or what doors a loose cannon witness might open(both Blago Bros come to mind).

    Always a tough call but this was a pretty good result for Rod (maybe a great result, depending on how the jury was polling)and a very good result for Robert.  I think most defense lawyers would've rested---especially since a defense would have certainly required Rod to testify and I don't think that would have been a good thing for the defense.  


    i suspect you're right (none / 0) (#27)
    by robrecht on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:49:18 PM EST
    I was not arguing that they should have put on a defense, just that one can hardly say they lost.  It's hard to imagine Blago helping himself by testifying.

    USA v. Blago (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:05:09 PM EST
    is the caption on the case no?

    The USA is (none / 0) (#17)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:41:59 PM EST
    represented by the Department of Justice and 93 U.S. Attorneys and various assistants. Patrick Fitzerald leads the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Ill. where the case was brought. His office decided on the charges and tried the case. The case failed.

    I understand the point you are making, in theory, isn't the Government representing all of us when they bring a case. Yes, it's in our name. It's not our decision, and when they fail and we spend millions on the case, they deserve to be called out.

    Please move on to another topic. This is irrelevant.


    Actually it's not my point (none / 0) (#25)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:09:27 PM EST
    My point is the system is what we are invested in.

    There is a reason why the prosecution has to turn over exculpatory evidence - because doing justice is the idea, not winning.

    I'll move on but I think when you make it about the state winning or losing based on guilty or not guilty, as opposed to the system doing justice, then that weakens the idea that the public's interest is in doing justice and instead is in getting guilty verdicts, and that undermines the presumption of innocence.

    Just my opinion on your post.


    I'm upset (none / 0) (#8)
    by NYShooter on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:57:08 PM EST
    With the jury for their one guilty verdict. How is it possible they found they couldn't agree on 24 charges, but this one they could.
     I think it was just one of those "well, let's throw the prosecutor a bone, you know, they tried so hard and worked so long. We don't want him to go home empty handed."

    Also, I'm thinking about the cost of defending against a prosecution which has unlimited resources. If this goes to retrial, it will cost Blago hundreds & hundreds of thousands of dollars, If they can't break him legally, they`ll break him financially.

    It's just so unfair!

    Correction... (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by NYShooter on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:11:40 PM EST
    Chicago News just reported that, in spite of Blago being allowed to use campaign funds for this trial, it has left him not only broke, but $200,000 in debt. They estimate that a new trial will run several MILLION dollars.

    They also said the judge may order that the taxpayers will have to pay for the re-trial.

    I guess Illinois has no real crimes to go after.


    CJA? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:11:04 PM EST
    CNN lawyer pundits are reporting that court-appointed counsel now would be paid by taxpayers of Illinois.  What does CJA stand for in re Illinois?

    Not the "taxpayers of Illinois" ... (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by Peter G on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:30:06 PM EST
    The cost of court-appointed counsel in federal criminal cases is a (very small) line in the federal budget, so all US taxpayers pay.  "CJA" stands for "Criminal Justice Act," 18 USC 3006A, the federal statute that establishes the Federal Public Defender system and which regulates the appointment and payment of court-appointed defense counsel when needed in federal cases.

    CJA means (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:49:22 PM EST
    "Criminal Justice Act"  is the federal indigent defense statute. 18 USC 3006. It's the same statute across the country, although different districts implement it differently. It provides for appointment of counsel for defendants in indigent cases. There's federal defenders, community defenders and individual court-appointed lawyers. The rate for court-appointed counsel is set by Congress nationally. This year it's $125 an hour for lawyers. Expenses are also paid for experts and other things.

    theoretically, the cost will be paid by all (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:50:45 PM EST
    taxpayers, not just those in Illinois. It's federally funded.

    Thanks, Peter G and Jeralyn (none / 0) (#24)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:05:19 PM EST
    for further Law School 101 study terms.

    So the media got it wrong.  Time for the Foghorn Leghorn reply:  I'm shocked, I say shocked!


    Would definitely like to know the (none / 0) (#12)
    by MO Blue on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:20:03 PM EST
    split between guilty and not guilty on the other 21 counts. Surely before this is all over, one of the jurist will spill the beans.

    Correction (none / 0) (#15)
    by MO Blue on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:33:12 PM EST
    s/b on the other 23 counts.

    We should wait for the vote count (none / 0) (#13)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:24:34 PM EST
    Don't forget, the jury's poll wasn't released so we really don't know how close the government came to getting convictions on the other counts.

    I think people should wait for more information before pronouncing on the appropriateness of another trial.   If there was only one (maybe two) jurors holding out for acquittal on the other counts, then I don't think it's fair to say that the jury rejected the government's case.  In my view, a retrial is perfectly reasonable under those circumstances.

    On the other hand, if it was basically only three or four in favor of conviction, then I mostly agree with Jeralyn.  (Hopefully, they won't just drop the but and will instead make a deal that requires Blago to give up any appeal or collateral  attack on the conviction---i.e., he just goes to jail and does his five years.  And even though I know it goes against the grain of this blog, I personally think he should do every single day of the maximum sentence.

    One vote away on Senate seat RICO charge (none / 0) (#23)
    by klem4708 on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:01:35 PM EST
    The jury was one vote shy of convicting on the senate seat RICO charge.

    http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2010/08/blago-jurors-1-vote-away-from-convicting-on-senate-seat.h tml

    Some are speculating that there may be new charges against Blago's wife. In court, the gov't seemed to have a lot of evidence that pointed to her being paid for doing nothing. Perhaps charges against the wife will convince Blago to cop a plea to the other charges.

    It isn't even certain that Blago's legal team will be back for round 2.

    While Fitzie may not be happy--I'm sure he is far from despondent. Not a great day--but not a bad one either.  

    not quite, the article says (none / 0) (#26)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:42:22 PM EST
    they were one vote away from voting guilty on the senate seat charge (which was separate from the RICO charges. RICO charges were 1 and 2 and included numerous acts.)

    Kindergarden (none / 0) (#31)
    by Jlvngstn on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:04:32 PM EST
    While the public schools ask parents for 2500-3200 dollars to have "full day" kindergarden (4 hours instead of 2) we are talking about spending 25-30 million to retry.

    I vote for letting him live in the shame of his Trump appearance and moving on....