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Blagojevich Retrial: Snapshot of the charges

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jurors in the retrial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich will resume deliberations on Monday.

On Thursday, the jury asked for help in understanding how to best assess several charges. Meanwhile, ABC7's Paul Meincke took a look at those charges.

How many times has it been said that the government's case in Blagojevich II has been streamlined, easier to understand? That's true, but it's still complex. The jury must follow instructions that are built on legal language that can cause some head scratching.

Thursday for instance, the jury in its note asked for a clearer definition of what's meant by "a materially false and fraudulent pretense." ABC7 has a snapshot of the 20 counts against the former governor.

Blagojevich is charged in five alleged schemes, trying to get something for himself for the Senate seat and fundraising shakedowns involving a hospital CEO, the state tollway, horse-racing legislation and a grant for a Chicago school.

Half the counts against Blagojevich are wire fraud. They require that the government prove that Blagojevich wasn't just talking, but that he took specific actions to further his talk. The actions are phone calls. For example, wire fraud count two centers on a phone call between Blagojevich and his Washington pollster in which the ex-governor says he could name Valerie Jarrett to the Senate if he were named Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Blagojevich: "...and maybe it's unrealistic, but if that was available to me I could do Valerie Jarrett in a heartbeat."

In a number of his recorded calls, Blagojevich talks of naming Jarrett and in return getting financial support to launch a 501 (C) (4) - issue advocacy group that he would get paid to run.

Doug Scofield: "...we're not talking as part of discussions for anything else.
Blagojevich: Well, it's unsaid. You understand what I'm sayin'?
Scofield: Yeah.
Blagojevich: It's unsaid."

He talks about the 501 (C)(4) on two phone calls with advisor Doug Scofield, twice with labor leader Tom Balanoff, and once with his pollster. Five calls. Five counts of wire fraud.

There are four counts of attempted extortion involving four of the alleged schemes. In one of them, count 11, Blagojevich is accused of holding up a grant for a school in order to first muscle a fundraiser from then Congressman Rahm Emanuel's Hollywood agent brother.

To prove up attempted extortion, jurors must be convinced in that count that Blagojevich was trying to get campaign money in exchange for an official action, and that he believed his attempt would succeed.

There are additional counts of bribery conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, and soliciting a bribe. Each one requires specific findings in law that the jurors navigate by way of 80 pages of instructions.

While Blagojevich II is legally less complicated than the first trial, it is still a case that deals with actions that were attempted, not completed. Talk or crime?

But the crime, prosecutors have stressed in abundance, was in the ask, the attempt. And the defense has said there is no crime because there was never any intent, therefore no attempt to break the law.

It is the jury's job to determine if what they heard at trial fits the legal framework they have on paper in front of them. And that's why it takes time. They go back at it Monday morning.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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rod blagojevich, local, paul meincke
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