A Chicago jury has just found former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich guilty on 17 of 20 counts of political corruption.
It’s nothing new for rogues and rapscallions to be sent to the Illinois governor’s mansion. In fact, within just the past 35 years, three former governors wound up in prison.
But for sheer political spectacle, Blagojevich takes the cake.
From the December 2008 morning when he was arrested for trying to sell the vacated Senate seat of Barack Obama to his in-your-face appointment of Roland Burris memorialized by Saturday Night Live, to his 114-1 impeachment by the Illinois House while he was out jogging ( “because I’ve done things to fight for families”)”to his hosting of a talk radio show the Huffington Post said was “complete with Elvis Presley introductory music, rants against the government and a lineup of sympathetic callers and guests,” the helmet-haired Blagojevich has been one of Illinois’ most unforgettable bad boys.
Last summer, jurors deadlocked for 14 days before finding Blagojevich guilty of just one of 24 federal counts against him: lying to the FBI about campaign financing. It was a devastating blow to the reputation of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who retried him this year on 20 counts of wire fraud, extortion, bribery and conspiracy involving numerous attempts to personally profit from his office. Fitzgerald streamlined the case by stripping out all of the racketeering counts that involved fundraiser Tony Rezko, an Obama friend and confidant, leading some Chicagoans to wonder whether Fitzgerald did so to shield the White House from possibly embarrassing revelations.
Even before the verdict came in, however, Blago’s attorneys had already filed a motion for a mistrial and lawyers for the Chicago Tribune have filed objections to the way various documents in the case were sealed from public view.
So the Blago Show will go on, leaving unanswered (at least for now) the question of whether this fallen-from-grace son of the Chicago Machine will ever spend a single night in a prison cell.