Blagojevich jurors agree on only two of 24 counts
CHICAGO — A dozen days into jury deliberations in the corruption case against former governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, there is no end in sight. The presiding judge, learning that jurors had reached a verdict on only two of 24 counts, told them yesterday to keep trying.
The jury has “gone beyond reasonable attempts to reach agreement’’ and has not begun considering 11 wire fraud counts, the jury reported to US District Judge James Zagel. The notes gave no clue which two counts have been decided.
Jurors now have a long weekend to think it over. Zagel gave them today off. They are due back at the courthouse Monday.
If the jurors, who have shown little desire for further instruction, wanted an assurance that they should press ahead, they got one. Before sending them back to work, the judge praised them outside their presence for their diligence and noted the lack of raised voices coming from the jury room.
But the handwritten messages after more than a week of public silence only deepened the mystery about their lengthy deliberations, with Blagojevich’s future and the fruits of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s six-year investigation in the balance.
“If I were the government, I’d be really nervous right now,’’ said Julian Solotorovsky, a former prosecutor. “If it took them this long to reach a verdict on only two counts, it means there’s plenty of disagreement on the jury. That doesn’t bode well.’’
The government presented hours of secretly recorded audiotapes and summoned some of Blagojevich’s closest aides, who testified that the former Democratic congressman and two-term governor tried to shake down Illinois businesses seeking state money and intended to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Blagojevich did not testify during the two-month trial, and defense attorneys called no witnesses, telling the jury in closing arguments last month that Blagojevich was a dim bulb who only did what politicians do and meant to break no laws.
“He ain’t corrupt,’’ Sam Adam Jr. told the jury. “And it’s proven in this case.’’
Assistant US Attorney Reid Schar called Adam’s argument “desperate and ridiculous.’’
But Adam’s reasoning reached at least one juror.
“There are obviously some people in there who think the government met its burden and those who don’t think the government met its burden,’’ Jeffrey Cramer, managing director of the investigations firm Kroll and a former prosecutor, said. “They’re obviously having difficulty with the acts that make up the racketeering and attempted extortion charges.’’