Rod Blagojevich behaved Tuesday evening as if he had won a grand victory: The massed resources of federal investigators and prosecutors couldn’t convince all 12 jurors of his guilt on 23 of 24 criminal counts. The defiance that has sustained him in the 20 months since his arrest didn’t fail him as he stood before reporters and again proclaimed his innocence.
In truth, Blagojevich awakens Wednesday as a convicted felon. The U.S. Department of Justice awakens determined to prove his complicity in many more crimes than the one count that’s enough to send him to prison.
No sooner had the first trial of Rod and Rob Blagojevich concluded Tuesday than the combatants in Judge James Zagel’s courtroom were plotting the second. No one walked out of that courtroom with reason to smile. Certainly not the man who walked out a convict.
Others, too, are squirming: The two defendants already have seen one full-throated version of what the feds can throw at them. But long lists of witnesses in this trial, and potential witnesses in the next, don’t know what awaits. Every Illinois and Washington politician or insider who didn’t have to testify – and who breathed easy when this case went to the jury – now has to wonder: How will the prosecution and defense refine their approaches? Will I be called this time? Will I have to answer questions about this case – under oath?
Few if any of those potential witnesses – U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Sen. Roland Burris and so on – can be pleased that Blagojevich’s fate won’t be sealed before Nov. 2. The second trial, whether or not it has begun by then, will hang over the general election as alarmingly as Banquo’s ghost.
How will the next trial differ from the first? Tuesday’s hung jury essentially challenged both sides: Do a better job. So none of us should be surprised to hear new audio recordings, new plot lines, new testimony, new assertions, new denials.
We very much anticipate that second trial. The government’s accusations of racketeering and conspiracy are too serious to go unresolved. We trust that another jury will tell the people of Illinois whether the state’s only impeached and ousted governor is guilty or innocent of more than one felony.
Blagojevich offered his opinion on that question after jurors offered their verdict: “This is a persecution!”
No, Governor, this is a prosecution. And we’re thankful that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and his team were swift in assuring citizens that they would take their case to a second group of jurors.
Judge Zagel, never one to dally, could move as early as next Thursday, Aug. 26, to set a date for jury selection to begin. Good for him. The sooner all of us know whether Rod Blagojevich’s criminal record stops with one federal felony, the sooner all of us can concur that justice has been served.