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Illinois ex-Governor Blagojevich convicted on corruption charges

A jury in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] on Monday convicted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [personal website; JURIST news archive] on 17 of 20 counts including attempting to sell the US Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. The jury convicted [count tally] Blagojevich of right counts of wire fraud and on counts of extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with the sale of a US Senate seat. However, the jury remained deadlocked [Chicago Tribune report] on a charge of attempted extortion for solicitation of then-congressman Rahm Emanuel, who served as Obama's chief of staff before being elected Mayor of Chicago. The jury began deliberating on June 10. Blagojevich was previously found guilty [JURIST report] last year of making false statements to the FBI, but the jury remained deadlocked on 23 additional charges. The prosecutors dropped some of the charges [JURIST report] to simplify the case for retrial including charges for racketeering. Prosecutors also dropped charges against Blagojevich's brother, his chief fundraiser. Blagojevich had tried to avoid the trial in March, but a federal judge declined to formally rule on his request to cancel the trial [JURIST reports], saying that the motion was neither serious, nor did it raise a legal question. Blagojevich's lawyers had submitted a motion [text] to cancel the ex-governor's retrial and sentence him only on the single charge on which he was originally convicted.

In Blagojevich's first trial, the jury deliberated for 14 days after the 11-week trial but was unable to reach a consensus on all but one of the charges. According to reports, there was a lone holdout [Chicago Tribune report] on the convictions regarding the sale of Obama's Senate seat. The female juror allegedly stated that due to the lack of a "smoking gun" she was unable to convict Blagojevich of the crimes. Last September, lawyers for Blagojevich asked the judge to throw out the sole conviction [JURIST report], stating that the government failed to meet its required burden of proof and that cross-examinations by the defense were plagued by "obstructionist" objections [Chicago Tribune report], which the court continuously sustained. In January 2009, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously [JURIST report] to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office. Blagojevich and his former chief of staff John Harris were initially arrested [JURIST report] in December 2008.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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