|[Photo from Wikipedia]|
Today, various news reports indicate that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty on 17 felony counts in federal court. The charges include conspiracy, soliciting a bribe, and wire fraud. The charges relate, among other things, to Blago's attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat of former Senator Obama, after the latter became president. Blago was also reportedly found not guilty on one count by the federal jury, which also could not agree on two other remaining counts. Sentencing will be held at a later date.
Here's my take on the verdict, as a former federal prosecutor and, currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense attorney. First of all, it appears that the federal prosecutors made a wise move by streamlining the case. For instance, since the last trial, last year, which ended in a hung jury on most counts, the prosecution dismissed a number of counts, (including a complex RICO count), and made the criminal case much easier for the jury to digest. No doubt the government also learned from their experience in the last trial about who made good, credible witnesses and who did not.
Finally, it is interesting to note that, in the last trial, Blago elected not to testify and he clearly did much better than in this trial, in which he testified. Some criminal lawyers believe a jury will often hold it against a defendant who elects not to testify. However, perhaps this trial illustrates that each case is different and that, sometimes, it may be best for a defendant to elect to stay off the stand.
What do you think about a defendant's decision not to testify? Would you hold it against him or her for not testifying, even though the judge will instruct you not to do so?
Of course, perhaps another lesson to be learned from Blago's case is that, if you are a politician, you shouldn't try to solicit a bribe in exchange for a political favor!
What do you think about the result in the Blago case? Is the problem of political corruption better or worse today than in the past?