Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wife Patti arrive at the Federal Court building, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, in Chicago. A lawyer for the brother of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says attorneys in the case have been summoned to the courtroom. Michael Ettinger, a lawyer for Robert Blagojevich, says he does not know the reason. It's the 14th day of deliberations. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
The hung jury in the Rod Blagojevich trial wasn’t a surprise to the bright minds at Ward Room.
On June 7, the day the trial began, we pointed out that he couldn’t make a deal to pass universal health care in Illinois, couldn’t pass a budget, and never actually made a deal to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat:
The ex-governor’s record indicates he was incapable of consummating a deal for anything, legal or illegal.
The General Assembly wasn’t wrong to impeach Blagojevich. He was a terrible officeholder. But that was a political trial. Blagojevich may win in court for the same reason he lost in the legislature: he was a guy who could never get the job done.
Blagojevich’s failure to actually nail down an agreement for the Senate seat convinced one holdout juror that the ex-governor was not guilty.
“She wanted to hear [Blagojevich] say, ‘I’ll give you this for that,’” fellow juror Erik Sarnello said.
But Blagojevich never said that. That’s why the feds couldn’t convict him on that count. Blagojevich was spared by his own ineptitude.
The feds did manage to convict Blagojevich of one count of lying to the FBI. That will be enough to send him to prison for 18 months or so, brand him with the title “convicted felon,” and prevent him from ever again practicing law, holding public office or owning a gun. That’s punishment enough for everything Blagojevich failed to do.
We don’t need to spend $25 million on a face-saving do-over for Patrick Fitzgerald. The next trial will probably last twice as long as this one, as Fitzgerald calls in witnesses he neglected to cross-examine the first time around -- partly because he didn’t realize Blagojevich wouldn’t put up a defense, leaving him with half a case.
It wasn’t a total defeat for the government: they got Blagojevich on one count. It wasn’t a total defeat for Blagojevich: he can say he was never convicted of selling the Senate seat. Maybe Fitzgerald wants a rematch for vindication, and Blagojevich wants one so he can get more attention. But Illinois doesn’t want a rematch. We just want to put the Blagojevich years behind us.