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Ousted governor guilty on 1 count

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wife Patti arrive at the Federal Court building, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, in Chicago.  A lawyer for the brother of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says attorneys in the case have been summoned to the courtroom. Michael Ettinger, a lawyer for Robert Blagojevich, says he does not know the reason.  It's the 14th day of deliberations.  (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wife Patti arrive at the Federal Court building, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, in Chicago. A lawyer for the brother of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says attorneys in the case have been summoned to the courtroom. Michael Ettinger, a lawyer for Robert Blagojevich, says he does not know the reason. It's the 14th day of deliberations. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) AP

CHICAGO — After a federal jury convicted him of just one count — lying to the FBI — and deadlocked on 23 other counts, Rod Blagojevich declared his innocence Tuesday and defiantly taunted prosecutors.

"The government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me, and on every charge but one, they could not prove that I broke any laws except one, a nebulous charge from five years ago," he told a crush of reporters at the Dirksen Federal Building this afternoon. "I did not lie to the FBI. I told the truth from the very beginning."

"We have a prosecutor who has wasted and wanted to spend tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to take me away from my family and my home," he continued, accusing the government of persecuting him.

In a theatrical burst of emotion, Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Sr. went after U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

"This guy Fitzgerald is a master at indicting people for noncriminal activity," he said. "This guy is nuts."

Another Blagojevich attorney, Sam Adam Jr., implored reporters to ask Fitzgerald one question: "Why are we spending $25 (million) to $30 million on a retrial when they couldn't prove it the first time?"

Prosecutors, he said, "have to ask themselves, 'Is this worth it?'"

Fitzgerald appeared in the courthouse lobby a few minutes later but did not address any of the taunts and questions thrown at him by Blagojevich and his attorneys, explaining the government was already preparing for the former governor's next trial.

"We intend to retry those charges," Fitzgerald said. "That's it."

Last week, the jury sent a note to the judge indicating it had reached agreement on two counts. Jurors did not speak to the media after the verdict was read and it was unclear why, in the end, they were unanimous on only the single count.

Blagojevich faces up to five years in prison on that one count: making false statements to the FBI. It is the fourth time since 1973 — and the second time in just four years — that a one-time Illinois governor has been convicted of wrongdoing.

As the jury's verdict was read, the former governor pursed his lips and shook his head slightly. His wife, Patti, rested her head on the chair in front of her and shook her head no several times.

After the judge left to the call of "all rise," Patti didn't stand up and looked angry with her head down, staring at her lap.

As jurors filed out, Patti collapsed into her seat.

Jurors also deadlocked on all four counts against Blagojevich's brother, Robert. Declaring a mistrial on the deadlocked counts, U.S. District Judge James Zagel gave the prosecution until Aug. 26 to formally announce plans to retry Blagojevich and his brother.

Robert Blagojevich's defense attorney, Michael Ettinger, said that while Tuesday's ruling isn't a victory "it's not a loss, and I expect the next time to be a victory."

"We'll be ready for the next one," he said.

On the prospect of the prosecutors changing their strategy in a retrial, Ettinger said the defense could also change tactics.

'There's certain witnesses we might put on that we didn't put on this time," he said.

The verdict was announced shortly before 4:30 p.m. Blagojevich and his wife arrived at the courthouse for the announcement around 3:45 p.m.

"God bless you, God bless you, I didn't let you down," Blagojevich said as he shook hands with admirers. He also high-fived spectators.

Patti laughed as Blagojevich kissed her on the cheek.

As he entered the courtroom on the 25th floor, he said: "How are ya' doin'? Say a prayer for us."

Robert Blagojevich arrived with his wife and son around 3:55 p.m., waiving to onlookers and reporters gathered in the lobby.

Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, head of the FBI in Chicago, were in the courtroom for the announcement.

The jury's decisions denied Blagojevich the sweeping exoneration he has insisted would eventually be his ever since his 2008 arrest by federal agents who accused him of being the ringleader of a wide-ranging plot to shake down state contractors and other politicians. And he may now have to try to persuade a fresh set of jurors of his innocence.

The turn of events also represents a stunning and rare setback for Fitzgerald, who in his nine years in the post has secured a near unbroken string of high profile corruption convictions of public officials, including former Gov. George Ryan.

The 23 deadlocked counts call into question the wisdom of a mid-trial decision to streamline the government case by not calling several key witnesses to testify.

On the flip side, the outcome could be seen as validation of a last-minute decision by Blagojevich's lawyers not to have him testify or mount a defense at all — despite explicit promises that they would do just that expressed to the jury in opening statements in early June.

Although his ultimate fate remains undecided, the legal proceedings have left Blagojevich deeply in debt and a retrial would likely widen the hole.

His political career is also in shambles and he is barred by the Illinois Constitution from attempting to revive it. He was impeached by the General Assembly in early 2009 — the first Illinois governor ever ousted from office in that manner — and because of that the state charter disqualifies him from ever again holding state public office.

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