Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Why Fitzgerald Should Quit Trying Blago

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    NEWSLETTERS

    If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result, then U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is insane.

    Today in the Dirksen Building, Fitzgerald begins his second rodeo with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The first time around, Fitz tried Blago on 24 counts, but was only able to convict him on one: lying to the FBI, a felony carrying a five-year prison sentence. That wasn’t enough punishment for Blagojevich’s alleged crimes, so Fitzgerald is trying again, hoping for a conviction on a count that carries a 20-year sentence.

    Nearly a year ago, at the beginning of Blagojevich’s first trial, Ward Room wrote, “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.”

    That’s exactly what happened. JoAnn Chiakulas, the juror who refused to convict Blagojevich, told the Tribune that “she found his undercover recorded statements on the Senate vacancy to be so disorganized that they failed to reach the level of a criminal conspiracy. She said he never formulated a clear plan to sell the position and viewed a lot of his comments as routine political horse trading.”

    Fitzgerald is presenting the same case against the same defendant, so he’ll probably get the same result. Furthermore, he’s the only guy in Illinois eager to see Blagojevich tried a second time. The New York Times reports that the retrial has “inspired only shrugs.” 

    The timing is especially unpleasant for Chicago’s two most powerful politicians. Rahm Emanuel, the go-between who presented Blagojevich with a list of Senate candidates acceptable to President-elect Obama, could be called to testify right around the time he takes the oath of office as mayor. Obama began his second campaign for president last week. He’s tried to distance himself from the shady operators who helped him rise to the top of Chicago politics, and won’t welcome stories about how the game is played in his hometown.

    Let’s hope Fitzgerald doesn't believe in that saying "third time's the charm."