Jury in Blagojevich Corruption Trial Only Agrees on 2 Counts Out of 24: Judge Says Keep Deliberating

Meena Hartenstein, New York Daily News, August 12, 2010

Elvis look-alike Rod Blagojevich may soon have a message for the jury in his corruption trial: Thank you. Thank you very much.

The former Illinois governor was all smiles Thursday as jurors on day 12 of deliberations announced they have hit a wall and can agree on only two out of 24 counts against him.

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The jurors did not disclose which two counts they did settle but said they haven’t even addressed the 11 counts of wire fraud at issue in the case. That implies they are stalled on the remaining 11 counts they have discussed.

Many of the wire fraud charges hinge on phone calls taped by the FBI in which the conversations relate to charges Blagojevich tried to sell or barter President Obama’s vacated Senate seat for personal benefit.

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Judge James Zagel praised the jurors for their work so far but said he would be sending them back to continue deliberations.

If jurors ultimately cannot break their impasse on most counts, prosecutors likely will retry Blagojevich on the charges that left the jury split, Chicago attorney Mark Helfand told The AP.

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Jesse Jackson Jr. once possessed the makings of a political star. Son of a civil rights leader and a Democratic congressman with a strong base of support on Chicago’s South Side, he set his sights on becoming the city’s mayor, or a senator from Illinois.

Those dreams of higher political office have been dimmed–perhaps irrevocably–by Jackson’s association with the corruption case of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. One damaging detail to emerge is that Jackson may have known about supporters’ plans to raise at least $1 million on the condition that Blagojevich appoint him to President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat.

Of all the public figures whose names came up during the trial, Jackson has suffered the most political fallout. These days he keeps a low profile in his district, rarely appearing in public and avoiding the media–especially when it comes to questions about Blagojevich.

“There’s no doubt that his ambitions have taken a hit,” said Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green. “Right now all his options are on hold.”

Jackson, 45, has not been charged and denies wrongdoing, but there’s little doubt he remains on the radar of federal prosecutors. A House ethics investigation of him, delayed at prosecutors’ request, was scheduled to resume after the trial.

While his congressional seat appears safe in the November election–he has won it since 1995 with more than 80 percent of the vote each time–even Jackson’s staunchest allies agree his reputation has suffered.

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Jackson admitted he was “Senate Candidate A,” one of several people Blagojevich considered appointing. According to the criminal complaint, Jackson’s supporters were willing to raise more than a million dollars for Blagojevich if he named Jackson to the seat. Jackson denied knowledge of the alleged offers.

At the trial, however, prosecutors said the state’s former international trade director, Rajinder Bedi, told them Jackson was present at a meeting when Bedi and a businessman discussed fundraising for Blagojevich and Jackson’s desire for the seat. During testimony, when prosecutors indicated Bedi was about to describe the incident, the judge cleared jurors from the room.

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Since the latest associations with Blagojevich, there are inklings that enthusiasm for him is waning in the district. For the first time, the black-owned Kankakee City News has chosen not to support Jackson and instead endorsed his Republican opponent. The publisher cites the Blagojevich association.

However, many believe Jackson won’t be permanently tainted.

“Bottom line, I would not take Jesse Jackson out of the calculation,” said Alan Gitelson, a Loyola University of Chicago political science professor. “These are the kinds of things you can overcome. Time passes and people change their opinions.”

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