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Blagojevich Guilty on 1 Count, Judge Sets Hearing for Retrial

August 17, 2010 at 8:57 PM EST
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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty Tuesday on one charge of lying to federal agents, but prosecutors have pledged a speedy retrial on 23 other counts. Political Editor David Chalian discusses the verdict and pending retrial with Jim Lehrer.
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JIM LEHRER: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted today on a single count of lying to federal agents. For the details, we turn to NewsHour political editor David Chalian.

Of course, that’s one out of 24, right?

DAVID CHALIAN: That’s right. Jim, the other 23 counts, a mistrial was declared by the judge today. The jury could not reach unanimity on any of the other counts: fraud, racketeering, extortion, conspiracy.

The lying to federal agents, in this case, the FBI, is the only conviction they got here with a unanimous verdict from the jury and could send Rod Blagojevich to prison up to five years.

JIM LEHRER: Now, the — the one — but he told the federal agents — what did it say? What was it that he said that the FBI — or that the jury found that he lied about?

DAVID CHALIAN: It was about having knowledge of fund-raising practices. It was a very small charge when you look at the other counts that they brought. When this indictment was revealed back in April, you remember all the talk was about the selling of a Senate seat, President Obama’s Senate seat…

JIM LEHRER: Sure.

DAVID CHALIAN: … possibly withholding grant money for an elementary school unless Rahm Emanuel’s brother would hold a fund-raiser for them. There were all of these charges. Just telling an untruth of sorts, a lie to the FBI, which is clearly a federal crime, nobody thought that that is where this case was going to end up.

Until recent weeks, I would say about a week ago, we started seeing notes from the jury to the judge expressing that they were having trouble reaching a unanimous verdict on some counts. And that’s when we first got the inkling that this may end up with some sort of mistrial, at least a big component of it.

JIM LEHRER: And, of course, they deliberated for 14 days to come up with this. Now, of course, the thing is not over because the prosecution says, hey, we’re not through yet.

DAVID CHALIAN: Not only not through; they’re trying — they’re going to try to retry Blagojevich as soon as possible. Remember, this is Pat Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago there. He, as soon as the judge declared a mistrial, said as soon as possible, we are going to bring this back to trial.

JIM LEHRER: And the judge is going to hold a hearing on this on August 26, which is just about a week from now. So, they’re going to get on with it.

DAVID CHALIAN: They are going to get on it, probably to the dismay of Democrats certainly in Illinois and nationally. As the campaign season heats up, this is unwelcome news that this will remain in the spotlight.

JIM LEHRER: OK. David, thank you very much.

DAVID CHALIAN: Thank you.