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Former US governor 'guilty of corruption'
Rod Blagojevich convicted of trying to swap US President Barack Obama's vacated senate seat for financial gain.
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2011 21:13
Blagojevich was ousted from office in 2009 during his second term by the state legislature [Reuters]

 Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been convicted of trying to swap US President Barack Obama's vacated senate seat for financial gain.

A jury in the central US city of Chicago found Blagojevich guilty on Monday of 17 of the 20 charges against him in connection to what prosecutors called a "political corruption crime spree".

Prosecutors had accused Blagojevich of trying to secure personal benefit and campaign funds in exchange for
appointing a US senator to fill the seat vacated by Obama after he was elected president in 2008.

The jury also found Blagojevich not guilty of soliciting bribes in the alleged shakedown of a road-building executive. But they deadlocked on a charge of attempted extortion on that same case.

Blagojevich, a Democrat ousted from office in 2009 during his second term by the state legislature, spoke after the verdict was announced, saying he was disappointed at the outcome.

"Frankly, I am stunned," he said.

"Patti and I are obviously very disappointed in the outcome. ... We want to  get home to our little girls and talk to them and try to sort things out," he said, referring to his wife.

Profanity-laced tapes

Blagojevich's conviction on Monday was his second trial in the case against him.

An earlier trial ended in August with a conviction on a single charge of lying to federal agents, with the jury deadlocked on 23 other counts in an indictment that included racketeering, bribery, attempted extortion, and wire fraud.

Obama and some senior White House staffers played a peripheral role in the case, which was built on FBI wiretaps.

In one tape heard by the previous jury, Blagojevich cursed that Obama had not offered him a cabinet post or anything else in exchange for what Blagojevich judged as making a favoured appointment to the vacant senate seat.

The profanity-laced tapes made the one-time congressman and his wife Patti the object of television talk-show comedy bits.

His defence team had insisted that hours of FBI phone-tap recordings were just the ramblings of a politician who liked to think out loud.

They portrayed him as a talkative bumbler who was given bad advice but never received any illegal funds.

Corruption-tainted city

Blagojevich was arrested in December 2008, two months after Obama won the White House race, vacating one of the two Illinois seats in the US senate.

Blagojevich, who ultimately named Roland Burris, a fellow Democrat and the state attorney general, to the seat, was impeached by the Illinois state legislature in January 2009 for corruption and misconduct. He was kicked out of office shortly thereafter.

The case helped Republican Mark Kirk narrowly beat a Democratic challenger and Obama protégé to win the seat in November.

The affair also shone the spotlight on Chicago's corruption-tainted political scene, but Obama and his administration have escaped the scandal unsullied.

Five of the past nine Illinois governors have been indicted or arrested for fraud or bribery and Blagojevich's predecessor, Republican George Ryan, is serving a six-and-a-half year jail term for fraud and racketeering.

Source:
Agencies
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