Jury Finds Blagojevich Guilty of Corruption

Chicago – A jury on Monday convicted Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, of a broad pattern of corruption, including charges that he tried to personally benefit from his role in selecting a replacement for President Obama in the United States Senate.

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat who former aides say once envisioned himself as a future presidential contender, was found guilty of most of the 20 federal counts against him: 17 counts of wire fraud, attempted extortion, soliciting bribes, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes.

As the verdicts were read aloud in court, one “guilty” following another, Mr. Blagojevich, who has always proclaimed his innocence, turned, his jaw clenched grimly, to look at his wife, Patti, in the front row. By then, she was already slumped back in the arms of a relative, eyes closed, wiping away tears.

The verdict appeared to be the conclusion, at last, to the spectacle of Mr. Blagojevich’s political career, which began its spiraling descent shortly after Mr. Obama was elected president in November 2008. A month after Election Day, Mr. Blagojevich, who was in his second term as governor and under state law was required to name a senator to replace Mr. Obama, was arrested, and federal agents revealed that they had secretly recorded hundreds of hours of damaging phone calls by him and his advisers.

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Mr. Blagojevich, a lawyer and former state and federal lawmaker, was accused of trying to secure campaign contributions, a cabinet post or a high-paying job in exchange for his official acts as governor — whether that was picking a senator, supporting particular legislation or deciding how to spend state money. Mr. Blagojevich was acquitted on one charge of bribery, and the jury deadlocked on two counts of attempted extortion, but convictions came on the bulk of the counts and on those related to the Senate seat — the claims that had drawn international headlines.

The outcome came as a victory for federal prosecutors, whose earlier trial resulted in a deadlocked jury on most counts and led people to wonder whether Mr. Blagojevich’s behavior would ultimately be deemed crass political deal-making or a lot of wishful, blustery talk, but not rise to the level of crimes.

Issuing their verdicts on the 10th day of deliberations, jurors said the accusations related to selling the Senate seat had been the clearest and easiest to resolve, in part because of the audio recordings of Mr. Blagojevich’s telephone calls. In the end, the jurors — 11 women and 1 man, all of whom declined to provide their names to reporters — said they believed they had sent a loud signal to corrupt Illinois politicians, past and future.

“There’s a lot of bargaining that goes on behind the scenes — we do that in our everyday lives, in business and everything,” said the jury forewoman, a retired church employee from the Chicago suburbs. “But I think in the instances when it is someone representing the people, it crosses the line. And I think we sent a pretty clear message on that.”

And she had her own conclusion about the unseemly political world she had seen close-up through about six weeks of testimony: “I told my husband that if he was running for politics, he would probably have to find a new wife.”

For Democrats here, in a state government they almost entirely control, the final chapter could not come soon enough. By turns, Illinois residents had been mortified by the saga, amused by its circuslike antics and, most recently, weary of the whole thing.

Mr. Blagojevich’s impeachment, removal from office and evolution into a punch line on late-night television threatened the Democratic Party’s political hold on the state, created an outcry to overhaul lax state campaign finance and public records laws, and led to added scrutiny of some of this city’s best-known politicians, including Mr. Obama, Rahm Emanuel (the president’s former chief of staff and now Chicago’s mayor) and Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr.

The scandal also reaffirmed an image that Illinois has long wished to shed: Mr. Blagojevich appears likely to be the fourth governor in recent memory to be imprisoned (one for acts committed after leaving office).

Mr. Blagojevich, 54, the father of two girls, was released until sentencing. His lawyers have until next month to pursue a new trial. The most serious of the counts carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

After Mr. Blagojevich’s first trial last year, jurors said the case had been too tangled and confusing, and it was clear that prosecutors took that message to heart. In the retrial, which began in April, prosecutors offered fewer, simpler charges, a notably boiled-down message and an emphasis on the thought that Mr. Blagojevich did not need to actually complete any deals to be found guilty of crimes for proposing them.

Prosecutors laid out five “schemes” in which they said Mr. Blagojevich tried to get campaign contributions in exchange for supporting a Senate appointee or legislation to help racetracks, a pediatric hospital or road projects. They also accused him of pushing for a campaign fund-raiser (from Mr. Emanuel’s brother in Hollywood, Ari) in exchange for supporting a school. The jury ultimately did not convict Mr. Blagojevich in connection to the school or the road projects.

The stakes of the retrial were apparent. Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (who may be better known nationally as having pursued the C.I.A. leak case against I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney) personally listened to parts of the trial and sat in the back row as the verdicts were read, later describing the outcome as vindication for the people of Illinois.

For his part at the trial, Mr. Blagojevich did what Mr. Blagojevich likes to do — talk. After offering no defense testimony at all in his first trial, he testified before jurors for seven days, proclaiming his innocence and portraying his taped conversations about matters like who he might appoint to the Senate as merely brainstorming, not some sinister plot.

Mr. Blagojevich defended himself against recorded calls and testimony that seemed to suggest he was pressing for a cabinet post in the Obama administration in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett, an ally of Mr. Obama, to the Senate. And he defended himself against calls and testimony that seemed to suggest he was considering a $1.5 million campaign contribution from supporters of Mr. Jackson if he were appointed to the Senate. He had not committed to any particular result, Mr. Blagojevich testified.

In a defense that some non-Chicagoans might have understandably viewed as closer to a confession, Mr. Blagojevich insisted that his favorite idea was not a financial trade at all, but a raw political exchange. He said he really wanted to appoint Lisa Madigan, the state’s attorney general, to the Senate seat in exchange for help getting his legislative agenda passed by her powerful father, Michael Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House.

While residents here seem to have grown inured by the Blagojevich story over more than two years, a curious city did watch as its new mayor, Mr. Emanuel, and Mr. Jackson were called to the witness stand by the defense team.

As it turned out, neither man’s testimony was particularly shocking. Mr. Jackson said he knew nothing of a financial offer by supporters to Mr. Blagojevich for the Senate seat, and Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Blagojevich had not solicited favors from him when he recommended Ms. Jarrett as a candidate for the Senate appointment. But Mr. Emanuel’s appearing at all — he had been sworn in as mayor only days before — seemed one more fitting moment in a story that has never lacked big names or drama.

As Mr. Blagojevich departed the courthouse on Monday, he spoke only briefly. Gone was the news conference fanfare.

“Among the many lessons that I’ve learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less,” Mr. Blagojevich said, soon adding, “I, frankly, am stunned. There is not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and explain things to them.”