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For Rod Blagojevich, conviction is a victory

Credit: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Updated 6:46 p.m.
A federal jury in Chicago found former governor Rod Blagojevich guilty of a single count of lying to federal agents but deadlocked over the other 23 charges against him, a major victory for the Illinois Democrat.

"I didn't let you down," he said outside court after the verdict was read. "The jury has shown the
government couldn't prove that I did anything wrong."

The conviction carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison. Prosecutors are reportedly planning to re-try Blagojevich on the 23 counts on which the jury hung. The judge has given the prosecution until Sept. 7 to officially decide whether to re-try Blagojevich.

The verdict brings a partial resolution to an 18-month political soap opera that has dominated the state's politics. While the outcome is a clear victory for the former governor, the conviction and the possibility of a second prosecution almost certainly extend a story line that has badly imperiled his party's prospects in the state this fall.

In December 2008, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald secured an indictment accusing Blagojevich of, among other crimes, attempting to sell the Senate appointment to the seat left open by Barrack Obama's 2008 victory. At the time, Fitzgerald described the corruption displayed by Blagojevich as "staggering."

Roughly a year after his arrest, Blagojevich was impeached in a vote by the Democratic-controlled state legislature. He was replaced by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who is seeking a full term this fall.

Following his removal, Blagojevich launched an unorthodox defense -- appearing publicly anywhere and everywhere including a stint on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" reality show.

With the former governor again and again drawing attention to the case, Republicans repeatedly bashed state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic Senate nominee, for his ties to Blagojevich. Giannoulias was subpoenaed to testify in the Blagojevich trial but insisted he had done nothing wrong. (Giannoulias did acknowledge that he had reached out to then-Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris to advocate for Valerie Jarrett, a close friend of the president's, to be the appointed pick.)

Blagojevich had been expected to testify at the trial, but at the last moment the defense rested without the former governor taking the stand.

Blagojevich eventually picked Roland Burris for the Senate appointment. Burris decided against seeking re-election this fall.

With Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | August 17, 2010; 6:02 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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