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Jewish World Review
August 20, 2010
10 Elul, 5770
Four cheers for Blago!
Way to go, Blago! I knew you could do it!
Rod Blagojevich, the impeached governor of Illinois, was found guilty Tuesday of lying to the FBI, a crime that carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Illinois is my home state, and Blago makes the fourth Illinois governor in my lifetime to be convicted of a felony.
Can you say that about your home state? I doubt it. In Illinois, we take pride in our felons the way some states take pride in their cheese or potatoes or oranges.
Blago’s predecessor as governor, George Ryan, is currently a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind. If Blago joins him there, Illinois would have two former governors in the can at the same time, which must be some kind of record. (Illinois looks upon Indiana the way England once looked upon Australia: We send our miscreants there in the hopes they will never return.)
Still, Blago is treating his conviction as a victory because he skated on 23 other counts, especially the one that alleged he tried to sell the vacated Senate seat of Barack Obama. The vote was 11-1 to convict Blago on that, but it takes only one doofus to deadlock a jury and Blago’s defense team managed to find that doofus.
It is possible that the lone juror holdout fell victim to the same thing the O.J. Simpson jurors fell victim to: By the end of the trial, they liked the guy on trial.
Back in January 2009, I wrote: “Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has now twice called him 'cuckoo,' and I wish Blagojevich really were. But I think he is calculating, not crazy. He is trying to build public support in the hopes of getting a more sympathetic jury when his case proceeds to a criminal trial.”
Picking a jury has become a science, with actual experts analyzing every word, facial tic and body movement of potential jurors. The prosecution in Blago’s trial appears, however, to have flipped coins.
How do you blow a case in which you have a 76-page criminal complaint accusing Blago of conspiracy and soliciting bribes, with threatening to deny funding to a children’s hospital unless he got campaign kickbacks and with trying to sell a Senate seat?
And the prosecution even had tapes!
But after 39 days of trial and 14 days of jury deliberation, Blago evaded 23 counts. He was delighted, slapping people on the back and giving high-fives.
After all that time, trouble and expense, all the government could get Blago for was lying to the FBI.
On the other hand, all the government could get Al Capone for was tax evasion.
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