Blagojevich circus not over any time soon

2010-08-18T07:41:00Z 2010-09-10T05:04:00Z Blagojevich circus not over any time soonThe Associated Press The Associated Press
August 18, 2010 7:41 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois voters braced Tuesday for a second Rod Blagojevich trial, with some groaning at the prospect of more public appearances and protestations of innocence by the former governor.

Others questioned whether another trial is needed for a politician whose career seems to be over, calling it a waste of money and a distraction from pressing issues like the state budget crisis.

"What's to be gained by retrying him?" said Wayne "Ren" Sirles, 68, a southern Illinois orchard owner who voted for Blagojevich twice. "If he was a violent criminal doing harm to other people or if he'd been found not guilty on all counts, that's a different story. But I just don't see paying the money prosecuting him further."

Blagojevich was convicted Tuesday of lying to the FBI, but jurors could not reach verdicts on 23 other counts against him. Three jurors said the panel was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Blagojevich on more serious charges. Prosecutors immediately said they would seek a new trial -- a decision that had its share of supporters, too.

Kathy Mock Shepherd of Savoy said Blagojevich should be treated like any other defendant.

"If anyone is guilty of a crime, then I think he is no better than anyone else," Shepherd said.

While voters discussed the pros and cons of another trial, Democratic leaders assessed the likely impact on political campaigns. The last thing they want during election season is a trial to remind voters about allegations of corruption and mismanagement under the Chicago Democrat's tenure, or of his connections to candidates on this fall's ballot.

Michael Madigan, Illinois House speaker and chairman of the state's Democratic Party, wouldn't even comment after the verdict was announced.

"The Legislature finished with the ex-governor with the impeachment. I don't see any other comment," said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown.

Blagojevich's former running mate, Pat Quinn, took over as governor when Blagojevich was tossed out of office last year. Now he's running for a term of his own.

Although Quinn and Blagojevich never were close, they did work together in two elections. Fresh reminders of Blagojevich's actions as governor, even if they didn't cross the line into criminal behavior, can't be helpful to Quinn.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday evening, Quinn wouldn't directly say whether he regretted past comments vouching for Blagojevich's honesty. "You can be misled, and that can happen in life for anyone," was as close as Quinn came to answering.

But Quinn insisted any new Blagojevich trial won't affect his chances of winning the race for governor.

"I think the people of Illinois know they have the first honest governor in a long time," Quinn said.

Quinn's Republican opponent, Sen. Bill Brady, immediately tried to link Blagojevich to the fall campaign.

"This important election in November marks the single best opportunity in our lifetime to finally clean house in Springfield," Brady said in a statement.

It's not clear whether a second Blagojevich trial would get under way before the election. Prosecutors say they want quick action, and the judge ordered a hearing next week to decide how to proceed.

A trial could play a role in the U.S. Senate race, too, where each candidate portrays the other as shady and untrustworthy.

Republican Mark Kirk said Illinois should move past Blagojevich by electing "thoughtful independent leaders who will restore integrity to our state."

Giannoulias issued a statement saying voters will reject Kirk for lying, just as the jury convicted Blagojevich of lying to the FBI. "The people of Illinois deserve leaders they can trust," Giannoulias said.

Edwin Eisendrath, the former Chicago alderman who challenged Blagojevich in the 2006 Democratic primary, argued that whatever happens to Blagojevich, the biggest question is whether Illinois voters will demand more of their politicians.

"The only proper takeaway from all of this is we can do better," Eisendrath said. "We've got to do better."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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