Jury selection has begun on the retrial of Rod Blagojevich, the former Governor of Illinois. Late last summer Blagojevich faced his first federal trial for claims of racketeering and widespread corruption in his office. Perhaps most famously, Blagojevich was accused of trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder. However, after a lengthy and expensive trial, Blagojevich was found guilty of only one charge – lying to the FBI. The jury was hung, or unable to agree, on any of the remaining counts.
Because the jurors in the original Blagojevich trial were unable to agree upon the remaining counts, the case was declared a mistrial. This means that the federal government could choose to retry Blagojevich on all the other counts, an option it chose to exercise.
If found guilty of the remaining federal charges Blagojevich faces a lengthy prison sentence. While he already was convicted on one felony count last summer, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, the judge elected not to complete Blagojevich’s sentencing until the remaining counts have been tried. This means that although Blagojevich was found guilty over seven months ago that he has not served any of his jail time.
This past March, Blagojevich’s lawyers filed a motion requesting that the judge sentence him immediately rather than waiting for the pending retrial. Not only would this allow Blagojevich to start serving some of his jail time, but the defense was also hoping the judge would cancel the retrial. Both requests were denied and the retrial has proceeded as planned.
While the federal prosecutors were highly criticized for their handling of the original Blagojevich trial, it appears they have corrected many of their problems. For example, many complained that the first trial was too complicated for the average person to understand. The jury instructions alone were over 100 pages and the jurors have since revealed that they were so confused during the trial that they had to make their own timelines to keep track of Blagojevich’s alleged illicit activities.
This time around it seems the federal prosecutors have learned their lesson. They’ve dropped two of the charges against Blagojevich, including a racketeering charge, the legality of which can be confusing even for lawyers. In addition, while the first trial was against both Rod Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, the retrial will focus solely on the ex-governor.
As the jury selection winds down, the retrial is slated to begin this coming Monday. It will be interesting to watch what changes each side has made to their case and see whether the federal prosecutors can win the jurors over to additional convictions. Also, it will be interesting to see whether or not Blagojevich testifies; he elected not to testify against himself in the original trial.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois personal injury lawsuits for over 35 years, serving those in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Deerfield, Lisle, Cicero, and Tinley Park.
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