Rod Blagojevich
Former Governor Rod Blagojevich could face 300 years in prison. Image: soundfromwayout/Flickr/CC BY

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted in his corruption trial Monday on 17 of 20 counts. This is Blagojevich’s second trial on the charges. He could face a sentence of up to 300 years behind bars.

An unpopular governor impeached

Blagojevich, 54, was the Democratic governor of Illinois from 2003 to 2009. As a leader, even before news of his corruption investigation broke, he had historically low approval ratings. He was once ranked by the Rasmussen Reports as the least popular governor in the nation.

He was arrested on federal corruption charges on December 9, 2008. Those charges included conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, bribery and attempted extortion. Most notoriously, Blagojevich was accused of allegedly attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

“Blago” was impeached and removed from office on January 9, 2009. His first trial ended in a deadlocked jury on all but one conviction of lying to the FBI.

A 2 1/2-year legal struggle

Blagojevich has been fighting his legal battles for 2 1/2 years. He has become a familiar face on television news and talk shows, proclaiming his innocence. He and his defense team have maintained that the incriminating evidence on FBI wiretap recordings was merely Blagojevich thinking out loud. His frequently profane remarks have been much parodied by the media.

Convicted on 17 out of 20 counts

After nine days of deliberation, Blagojevich was convicted by a jury of 11 women and one man. He was found guilty on 17 out of the 20 corruption charges filed against him. The jury could not agree on two counts of attempted extortion, one regarding the Illinois Tollway and one involving a school for which he was trying to raise funds. He was also found not guilty on a bribery charge involving the Illinois Tollway.

Blagojevich’s wife Patti reportedly wept when the verdict was read. Blagojevich was heard to ask his attorney, Sydney Sorofsky, “What happened?”

Only the most recently convicted Illinois governor

Blagojevich is the fourth Illinois governor to be convicted of serious crimes. George Ryan (R), who served from 1999 to 2003, was convicted on 18 counts, including racketeering. Dan Walker (D), governor from 1973 to 1977, pled guilty to bank fraud and other charges. Otto Kerner (D), who served from 1961 to 1968, was convicted of bribery charges.


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