A Chicago jury has returned guilty verdicts on 17 of 20 corruption charges against former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, which could put him behind bars for up to 350 years.
Blagojevich had previously been found guilty of lying to the FBI, but deadlocked on other counts, leading to a retrial.
“This time the verdict was unequivocal,” reports the Chicago Tribune, “with the jury of 11 women and one man finding Blagojevich guilty on 17 criminal counts he faced, including charges of wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery and conspiracy.” One of those guilty verdicts came on the infamous charge of attempting to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
The Tribune tells us Blagojevich is “the fourth former Illinois governor convicted of felonies since 1973.” This factoid becomes more surprising the further one lives from Chicago.
It appears prosecutors were able to win the 17 guilty verdicts by greatly streamlining the originally complicated case against the former governor:
“In repackaging the case, prosecutors dispensed with evidence aimed at showing that Blagojevich had conspired with top fundraisers from the earliest days of his administration to corrupt state boards and pocket ill-gotten proceeds. Also erased was testimony about Blagojevich’s expensive taste in clothing and his tendency to shirk official responsibilities.
“Testifying in his own defense, Blagojevich claimed prosecutors had twisted his words recorded on secret government wiretaps and insisted he was guilty of nothing more than thinking out loud. What’s more, Blagojevich’s lawyers emphasized, none of the illegal plots he was accused of hatching ever came to fruition.
“Blagojevich’s turn on the witness stand, something he had promised to do in his first trial before backing out, proved a double-edged sword. Under cross-examination he came off as a quibbler as a prosecutor drew a bead on his credibility from the very first question: ‘You are a convicted liar, correct?’”
One of Blagojevich’s shakedown victims was the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital, who wanted “an increase in state-paid Medicaid reimbursement rates for pediatric specialists.” Nothing like that will ever happen under government-run health care at the national level, where matters will be administered by selfless public servants who use their immense power with the utmost discretion and sobriety.