As Peggy Lee once sang, “Is that all there is?”
The Blagojevich prosecution rested its case weeks ahead of schedule, raising the question, “Is the U.S. Attorney’s office one efficient outfit, or do they just not have much dirt on Blagojevich?”
Former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins, who prosecuted George Ryan, has been frequently quoted as saying the government doesn’t have to prove Blagojevich actually did anything wrong, just that he intended to do something wrong. Collins likens the case against Blagojevich to attempted murder: “you don’t have to have a dead body; hiring the hit man is enough.”
But plenty of journalists, bloggers and court watchers, less versed in the rules of federal court, still don’t seem convinced that Blagojevich actually did anything criminal. And there seems to be a perception that Blagojevich’s four-letter vocabulary, his bluster and his catalog of insults are reinforcing the image of a guy who was all talk, but no action.
Even before the prosecution ended its case, Natasha Korecki of the Sun-Times was coloring herself unimpressed:
He’s accused of plotting to appoint U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the U.S. Senate in exchange for a $1.5 million campaign donation.
But Jackson never coughed up any cash, and Blagojevich was arrested before he appointed anyone.
Blagojevich is accused of holding up racetrack legislation so he could get a campaign contribution.
But he never got the money and signed the bill anyway.
He’s accused of trying to extort the Tribune Co. and then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel -- only in each case, his aides testified, they ignored his requests.
Fox Chicago and the Wall Street Journal both sent reporters out into the street to ask the question, “Is Blagojevich guilty?” Let’s just say that if the trial were decided on the sidewalks of Chicago, the best prosecutors could hope for is a hung jury.
“There's been some damaging evidence on the tapes, but there's been nothing to really prove he's done anything wrong. I haven't seen anything yet that says he's done something wrong,” one man told Fox Chicago.
According to The Wall Street Journal, "the consensus among Chicago’s white-collar defense bar is that Mr. Blagojevich is headed to prison for a substantial stretch, the outcome seemed nowhere near as certain out on the city’s streets.”
The Journal quoted David York, a 63-year-old environmental engineer passing through Daley Plaza. His thoughts on the case are awfully similar to what you'll hear from other folks around town:
“What did he actually do that was criminal?” York asked. “At the end of the day, the government has only made a partial case. I think he’s guilty, but Blago is a real cool character—he implied a lot of stuff but I don't think he ever came outright and demanded money for contracts. He kind of talked around it. I think he’s going to get off.”
Blagojevich, who never lost an election, is once again winning in the court of public opinion. He’s got to hope the men and women in the jury box are as unconvinced as the men and women in the street.