Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted in 17 of 20 counts of corruption, including the sale of the Illinois senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. This was the second trial for the man known as “Blago,” and many in the news media on all sides of the political spectrum have not placed the second trial in context with the first.
The first trial ended last August with one conviction of lying to the FBI and a hung jury on the remaining counts. Almost immediately, many members of the media began questioning the need for a second trial, indicating that U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald might be wasting taxpayer money in a desperate effort to have the former governor convicted on more serious charges.
The criticism of Fitzgerald came from all quarters even though there really was no cheerleading for Blagojevich because media pundits, both liberal and conservative, heaped plenty of scorn on the former government. The amazing thing to me is that so few reporters told the whole story of the first trial.
After the first trial ended, several jurors made no mistake about the fact that Blagojevich would have been convicted of multiple counts, including some of the very serious charges involving the sale of the Illinois senate seat. The reason that didn’t happen was because of one lone holdout, juror Jo Ann Chiakulas, who refused to go along with the other jurors on a guilty verdict for all but one of the charges. In fact, there are some reports that Blagojevich would have been convicted of at least 11 more charges if it wasn’t for the reticence of one juror to convict on more serious counts. Several of the jurors from the first trial have publicly questioned how this one person could ignore what they believed was overwhelming evidence of guilt.
Chiakulas is a retired director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. She was also known to be a political activist for the Chicago Democratic Party. She made no mistake that she was the lone reason that Blagojevich was not convicted on more counts in the first trial, and in retrospect, many court observers are wondering how she ever made it on the jury considering her background.
Nevertheless, “Blago” has met justice, and is likely to serve at least six years in prison. As I said earlier in this post, I didn’t notice anyone in the new media cheering for him to be acquitted, but I wish they would have put the difference between the first trial and the second trial in a more honest context.