Published August 20, 2010
CHICAGO – With a second corruption trial against him looming, impeached Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich launched a second pretrial media blitz on Friday - appearing to direct his comments, at least in part, to anyone who might end up on a second jury.
Speaking days after a mostly deadlocked panel convicted him on just one of 24 counts after a two-and-a-half month trial, an unbowed Blagojevich accused prosecutors of criminalizing "political horse trading," and he likened himself to David battling a federal Goliath.
"We are going to win," Blagojevich, 53, told NBC's "Today" show about an expected sequel to his first trial. "We've already won the first round. We're going to win this one."
He also thanked the lone juror who dug in her heels to prevent a conviction on the most serious charge - trying to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.
Minutes after the one guilty verdict was read in court Tuesday, prosecutors told the judge they would retry Blagojevich on all the undecided counts. Take two could start within months.
"I've always had a deep, abiding faith in God," Blagojevich said about the holdout juror. "And when I look at that, it just confirms again, praise God."
The holdout, unlike Blagojevich, has stayed silent since the trial ended.
"Personally I think it's a bad decision not to say something because you leave the speculation to go rampant," said jury foreman James Matsumoto.
At points during deliberations, the holdout juror complained of stomachaches and headaches because of the pressure, Matsumoto said.
The jury foreman said he refused to send a note to the judge that the holdout juror wasn't deliberating in good faith, as one male juror wanted to do in a heated moment. Matsumoto said in his opinion the holdout juror showed every sign of sincerely deliberating.
Jurors' votes were secret, but Matsumoto said other jurors believed the solo holdout on 11-to-1 counts was the same person every time. They knew that, he said, because one juror would say things like, "I can't see it. I still think he's innocent."
For many, Blagojevich's appearances on TV and radio may provide a sense of deja vu.
In the months before the start of his trial, Blagojevich popped up everywhere, including on the "The Celebrity Apprentice" reality show. It was widely believed he was attempting to influence the jury.
One difference this go around on the media circuit is that the ex-governor sits before TV viewers having been convicted of lying to the FBI.
"This time he's a felon and a crook," University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson. "It doesn't mean he can't try to put a gloss on it, but it makes it harder for him to be credible."
Many people also will now have heard excerpts of FBI recordings played in court of an often agitated Blagojevich spewing obscenities and obsessing about money.
"I've got this thing and it's (bleepin') golden," he's heard saying about Obama's vacated Senate seat. "I'm just not giving it up for (bleepin') nothing."
Other times he's heard cursing the president, his wife and even voters who elected him.
On Friday in contrast, a deferential Blagojevich spoke calmly about how prosecutors came after him for what he describes as nothing more than talk.
"They slandered me across the world when they said I was selling a Senate seat for money," he said. "Political judgments in my world are still legal and horse trading - and discussing those things are still legal."
He made a similar point in a Friday interview with Chicago's WLS Radio.
"If they're charging me with crimes, then they ought to charge every other politician in America," he said. "Every time a congressman votes and trades his vote with another congressman for another vote they ought to charge those people, too."
Asked if he agreed the actions leading to Blagojevich's arrest were simply political horse trading, current Gov. Pat Quinn seemed to take issue with that contention.
"He's a convicted felon," he said. "Take it for what it is."
Blagojevich pointed out that prosecutors were unable to prove the corruption charges against him and that he escaped conviction on the most serious charges without his side mounting a defense.
"These prosecutors threw everything at me but the kitchen sink, and on 23 corruption charges they failed to prove any of them, none of them," he told WLS radio.
He dismissed the idea of accepting a plea deal to avoid an expensive retrial because money in his campaign fund that had been used to pay defense lawyers has been exhausted.
He told NBC: "I'm up against the giant Goliath and I take solace in the biblical story of David. I don't have a slingshot but I do have the truth on my side."
Blagojevich's media blitz is scheduled to continue with other interviews, including this weekend with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." The governor's publicist says he'll also appear next week on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show."
Associated Press writers Deanna Bellandi and Carla K. Johnson in Chicago, and John O'Connor in Springfield also contributed to this report.