Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of lying to federal agents yesterday - but the federal jury deciding his case was deadlocked on the remaining 23 counts against him. With a retrial now looming (and Blago vowing to appeal his one conviction), let's take a look at the big winners and losers from the decision.
Rod Blagojevich: Yes, he could still go to jail for up to five years based on the one count on which he was convicted. But the former governor has been saying for months that he would be exonerated despite what seemed like overwhelming against him - and while that didn't quite happen, he came pretty darn close. (Granted, that could still change, depending on the outcome of the retrial.) "This jury shows you that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me," a triumphant Blagojevich said after the decision was reached. "They could not prove I did anything wrong - except for one nebulous charge from five years ago." Blagojevich is even leaving the door open to another run for public office, in a state where he hasn't been impeached.
The Lone Holdout: Jurors said that on the most serious charges against Rod Blagojevich and his brother Rob - extortion and bribery in connection with the former governor's alleged effort to effectively sell President Obama's former Senate seat - there was just one person who did not believe the brothers should be found guilty. That juror - according to CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen, a female retiree from the Chicago suburbs - "just had such different views," according to one of the other jurors. Despite the fact that the many of woman's fellow jurors wanted to side almost fully with the government, she held her ground - and Blagojevich got his vindication.
Cynics: Despite hours of seemingly damning recordings, the government could not win a clear-cut conviction - perhaps because his pretrial media blitz transformed him into a larger than life celebrity-type figure. "Jurors are more willing to put away a politician and less willing to put away a celebrity," one jury consultant told NPR, arguing that Blagojevich "made himself bigger than all of this." Meanwhile, sitting on the jury gave community college student Erik Sarnello ideas for a new career. "I might be a lobbyist after this," he told the Chicago Sun Times. "I've seen all the money they make.''
The White House: Had the jury convicted Blagojevich on more charges, there would be no retrial and the Obama administration's political headache would have ended -- with the president and his staff emerging relatively unscathed. Now the whole thing is set to begin again, and the Blago legal team is again vowing to try to get President Obama and his senior staffers on the stand. "They claim that this was a bribery, extortion to sell the Senate seat," Blagojevich's attorney Aaron Goldstein said on CBS' "The Early Show" this morning. "Well, who was governor Blagojevich supposedly selling the senate seat to? It had to be President Obama. If that's true, wouldn't the jury like to hear what this supposed extortee has to say?" Also likely to be again called to testify are Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, generating problems for the White House even if they never sit on the witness stand.
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald: The no-nonsense federal prosecutor who first made headlines investigating the Valerie Plame affair said Blagojevich's misdeeds "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave" - and then failed to get him convicted on any serious charges. "I think there was a sense of overconfidence by the government," CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford said. "When they played those tapes, they assumed the jury would just be shocked and really what the tapes show is that Blagojevich was a profane loud-mouthed guy. That's not exactly a shock to jurors in Chicago politics. And the defense did a really good job of getting back to the simple concept: Follow the money. And there wasn't a dime the prosecution showed went into Blagojevich's pocket, it was all talk. So is he a bad governor or a criminal? The prosecution didn't show how the tapes translated into criminal conduct."
The Democratic Party: U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel has set a hearing on August 26 to figure out the nature and timing of a retrial. If it goes forward in the coming months, it means distractions and negative headlines for Democrats in the run-up to the midterm elections. (And they've got plenty of those already.) Republicans, all too eager to portray Democrats as corrupt purveyors of backroom deals, will hold up the cartoonish, larger-than-life figure of Blagojevich as Exhibit A.