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Holdout juror addresses critics; Robert Blagojevich’s “deal”; Wingers funding Rod?

Friday, Aug 27, 2010

* JoAnn Chiakulas, the lone holdout juror on several Blagojevich counts, takes on her critics

In the week since the trial’s end, Chiakulas has been branded “the holdout” for her refusal to convict the ex-governor on the Senate seat allegations. Her life has been placed under a microscope, with some questioning whether her former government job or her ex-husband’s campaign donation to Blagojevich three decades after they divorced played a role in her decision. […]

Chiakulas, for her part, said she was a public servant hired during Gov. Jim Edgar’s administration. Her ex-husband was politically active before his death, but they were divorced more than 30 years ago.

She also said she did not know Blagojevich co-defendant Chris Kelly, who lived in the same subdivision as one of her relatives before committing suicide a year ago.

The inferences — along with suggestions that she’s “crazy” — anger Chiakulas. She said it upsets her that people want to find an ulterior motive for her decision, rather than believe it’s possible that the prosecution had not proved its case.

“It was something that I took seriously and didn’t ask for,” she said. “And then to be treated the way I’ve been treated, it makes me wonder about being a juror and the system itself.”

Go read the whole thing.

* Prosecutors didn’t offer Rod Blagojevich much of a deal

But just the night before, federal prosecutors were on the phone offering Robert Blagojevich something he always wanted: a separate trial from his celebrity brother.

* Good analysis by Patrick Collins

Former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins said it was “extraordinarily rare” to drop a defendant in a high-profile case.

“I think what the government did today was both smart tactically and just,” Collins said.

Prosecutors likely recognized Robert Blagojevich was a sympathetic figure, that he would be difficult to convict in a retrial and that his testimony as a co-defendant could be helpful to his brother, Collins said.

“Tactically, dismissing him streamlines the case and partially rebuts the ‘persecution’ claims that Rod Blagojevich is making,” Collins said. “It helps the government in the court of public opinion — which does matter in this extraordinary case.”

* And in an unusual admission, Robert flat-out said that his statements to the press after the hung jury were designed to influence the next jury

“The strategy was, it was a disappointment I wasn’t acquitted. It was important to reach the next jury pool. We had a 9-3 vote in my favor, so we came very close. And that was with a jury pool that had been polluted by [U.S. Attorney] Patrick Fitzgerald‘s press conference. So now that we had a trial, it was a good time for me to make a case, be interviewed, explain my situation, and emote whatever I could emote.

* Kadner

As far as I’m concerned, the decision by the U.S. attorney is a disappointment only because Ettinger had promised to call U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) as a witness at a retrial, along with the Indian-American businessman who allegedly told Robert he could raise $6 million if Jackson was appointed senator.

“The whole story” about the sale of the Senate seat will come out, Ettinger vowed, although he implied it would prove there was no deal to sell that seat.

I still think the public is owed an explanation, some detail, whether or not it helps or damages the federal government’s case.

* Will the Wall Street Journal editorial board and national right wingers be funding part of Rod Blagojevich’s defense? Sneed

Sneed hears inquiries have been made about privately funding additional attorneys for the retrial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“The federal government will only pay for two attorneys for Blagojevich, but private donations could pay for other attorneys,” said a source.

“The inquiries are in the early stages, but there is talk about help on Rod’s retrial and some of the calls are from people unhappy with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for the way he handled the Scooter Libby trial,” the source added.

Hilarious.

* Related…

* Adams stay on Blagojevich case - for now: Although they figure to face a more focused prosecution and with diminished resources at their disposal, Rod Blagojevich’s attorney Sam Adam says reports that he and his son will be leaving the former governor’s defense team are greatly exaggerated.

* Our Opinion: National media miss mark on Blagojevich

* Justice demands new trial for Blagojevich

* Two jurors happy with Robert Blagojevich decision

* Charges dropped against Blago’s brother

* Robert Blagojevich’s Million Dollar Defense

* Feds drop charges against Rob Blagojevich

* The Morning Drive Podcast: Rod Blagojevich is on his own in his upcoming re-trial

* Rod Blagojevich is lone target now that brother is cleared

* No new trial, but no vindication for Robert

* Judge says ex-gov’s retrial won’t start until January

* Blagojevich to be Retried in January

- Posted by Rich Miller        

33 Comments
  1. - Concerned Observer - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 10:37 am:

    I read the entire interview/article with Chiakulas earlier today, and I’m happy to say I can stand by my original points on the matter.

    I didn’t need to know her name, but I did need to hear her reasoning. I don’t agree with her, but I respect that she made a decision based on what she felt the evidence showed and not out of some sympathy for the ex-Governor.

    What I think we can say now is that the federal prosecutors did not do a good job laying out the evidence, that the Adams’ decision not to put on a defense was a sound one, and that at least one of those conditions will most likely be quite different at a retrial.

    If the feds get more control over the way they present their case — dumb it down more, call ALL the witnesses, etc — they’ll get a conviction. If not, Round Three.


  2. - George - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 10:40 am:

    You didn’t need to hear anything. None of us did.
    I think this is the key line from that interview:

    “It was something that I took seriously and didn’t ask for,” she said. “And then to be treated the way I’ve been treated, it makes me wonder about being a juror and the system itself.”


  3. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 10:43 am:

    What did the hold-out juror expect to happen after she single-handedly thwarted justice? Did she expect that no one would have the audacity to look in her direction?


  4. - Third Generation Chicago Native - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 10:43 am:

    Chiakulas voted her concious. This Jury had a very difficult trial, and they had to sort out a lot of charges.

    There are very few who would want to trade places with any of them. She did her public service and she should not be punished for it.


  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 10:50 am:

    –“It helps the government in the court of public opinion — which does matter in this extraordinary case.”–

    That’s a very revealing statement. The U.S. Attorney believes it can choose whether or not to prosecute someone based on its p.r. needs? Where’s the “justice” in that?

    Collins, in my mind, confirms the theory that Patti wasn’t prosecuted for p.r. reasons as well. Given the changes a federal prosecution can put you through, I find that kind of raw power disturbing.


  6. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 11:08 am:

    Rich Miller editorializes,

    “Will the Wall Street Journal editorial board and national right wingers be funding part of Rod Blagojevich’s defense?”

    WOW! How did you come to that conclusion? Perhaps you thought the Scooter Libby trial was justice served, but remember that Fitzgerald knew that Libby wasn’t the leaker about Plame BEFORE HE CHARGED LIBBY. The leaker was Richard Armitage, and our old friend Fitzgerald fell back to the old “lying to the Feds” meme instead of trying the case on the merits of the leak.


  7. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 11:11 am:

    - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 10:43 am:

    “What did the hold-out juror expect to happen after she single-handedly thwarted justice?”

    Huh? Unless this juror acted in bad faith, the hung jury represents justice. Luckily you will never be chosen as a juror in this case, your bias is showing.


  8. - Cool Hand Luke - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 11:15 am:

    Ms. Chiakulas has now had her opportunity via the media to challenge the inferences that have been directed her way. That is fair. She will change some minds but perhaps not many. The one “rumor” that I had heard that was troublesome to me (if it was true?) was that she had allegedly made statements to one (or more?) of her neighbors quite some time before the trial began that she would never convict Rod because she was sympathetic to him. In fairness to her, how can we expect her to explain away every rumor that cropped up because of her decision? It is a hard (if not impossible) task to accomplish. I would think that the Feds would have sought out this alleged neighbor if the rumor had any validity to it.

    Regarding the decision not to retry Robert Blagojevich, I would say that this is a somewhat hollow victory for Robert Blagojevich. He has already been sentenced to paying huge legal bills even though he was not found guilty. Plus, Robert Blagojevich was never actually found to be innocent, either. This original decision by the Feds to charge him (although no final decision on his guilt or innocence has ever been decided upon by the court) will forever be an “albatross hung around his neck” for the rest of his life. It is tantamount to what happened to Doctor Mudd’s life and his family’s honor when Doctor Mudd deliberately (or innocently) helped furnish medical care to John Wilkes Booth. We have all seen how long that “albatross has been hung from Mudd’s neck”. No thanks! Robert Blagojevich has been harmed enough.


  9. - tea - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 11:27 am:

    I find it appaling Patrick Collins is spouting off about this case acting as if it was a football game or something. We are talking about a man’s life. Collins makes it look like the government is more interested in WINNING than justice!


  10. - Segatari - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 11:32 am:

    >* Will the Wall Street Journal editorial board and national right wingers be funding part of Rod Blagojevich’s defense?

    I think this claim is completely bogus and has no basis in reality.


  11. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 11:43 am:

    I read her interview and she is wrong. But that’s the breaks. Blagojevich is facing a new trial while his brother gets a break. That’s the breaks.

    Rod Blagojevich is headed for jail sometime within the next couple of years. That is what matters.


  12. - Third Generation Chicago Native - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 11:45 am:

    The one “rumor” that I had heard that was troublesome to me (if it was true?) was that she had allegedly made statements to one (or more?) of her neighbors quite some time before the trial began that she would never convict Rod because she was sympathetic to him From Cool Hand Luke

    It was up to the prosecutors picking a jury to weed these jurors out. If in fact this was true.


  13. - Secret Square - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 11:54 am:

    “I think this claim is completely bogus”

    Read the story more carefully. Leaving aside for the moment the veracity of the unnamed source, how else would you describe “people unhappy with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for the way he handled the Scooter Libby trial”?

    If I remember correctly, the term “Fitzmas” was originally coined by liberal Daily Kos bloggers who were beside themselves in gleeful anticipation of Fitz’s indictments in the Plame case. If they are still unhappy with Fitz’s handling of Libby, it would be because they don’t think he went far enough (some of them were hoping Karl Rove or even Dick Cheney would be indicted).

    Also, I seem to recall that Mitt Romney, during the run up to the 2008 GOP primaries, promised he would fire Fitz if elected because of his handling of the Plame/Libby case.


  14. - Ghost - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 12:13 pm:

    I agree with Collins. I used to have a lot of respect for Collins but he went off on the crazy train for a period there during his “ethics” days.

    Nice to see him back on his game.


  15. - Segatari - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 12:43 pm:

    >Read the story more carefully.

    I read it carefully before calling it bogus - it is bogus - the logic DOES NOT FLOW - it makes NO SENSE. Why would ANY conservative want to fund Blago’s defense? The guy is a left-wing hack who drove Illinois into the ground. There is not a single conservative around who likes this guy. It makes no sense whatsoever for any conservative to jump to this guy’s defense period. If you find one I’ll send the guy a letter and call ‘em an idiot.


  16. - Pembleton - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 12:58 pm:

    Secret Square -
    “people unhappy with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for the way he handled the Scooter Libby trial” include the WSJ edit board. They produced a long (and wrong-headed) op-ed piece decrying Fitz’s abuses of power, from Libby to Conrad Black/Jeffrey Skilling, to Blago (tho it doesn’t object to the Blago treatment on the merits). Also, the conservative SCOTUS justices specially concurred in the Black/Skilling opinion, saying that the honest services law should be abolished altogether, as it is vague. In this world of strange bedfellows, Fitz is a conservative target.


  17. - Irishpirate - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 12:58 pm:

    In some ways I think Patrick Fitzgerald has been a great US Attorney, but the guy has no sense of proportion or justice. He’s like a cop who doesn’t believe in discretion. Catch some kid with a joint……lock em up.

    He needs to be reigned in by the Justice Department, but unfortunately given the politics of it likely won’t be.

    It seems clear that if they could have gotten Robert Blago to agree to a separate trial they would have gone after him again.

    Absolute stupidity. I want prosecutors who are more concerned about justice than winning. I’m not even sure Fitzgerald has any valid definition of justice outside of “what the law says to the letter”.


  18. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 1:14 pm:

    IrishPirate, the Obama Justice Department cannot, realistically, say “boo” to Fitz. They have to be hands off all the way.

    When it comes to discretion, I think Fitz has way too much. It’s a powerful weapon to get cooperation and boost your :900 batting average.

    In Family Secrets, they made a deal with Nick Calabrese, who copped to over a dozen murders, in order to get some other murderers. That’s discretion to the extreme.


  19. - Shelbyville - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 1:36 pm:

    I am happy that she wasn’t badgered into voting for something that she didn’t agree with.

    It seems that people still think that she was the only no vote on all of the counts, though.


  20. - Segatari - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 1:55 pm:

    Do you guys really think Fitz wouldn’t get his hands dirty fighting corruption in government? He’s doing what he thinks is right and is not singling out one political party for charges. He’s been non-partisan throughout his quest. He should be commended, not condemned.


  21. - 47th Ward - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 1:55 pm:

    ===In Family Secrets, they made a deal with Nick Calabrese, who copped to over a dozen murders, in order to get some other murderers. That’s discretion to the extreme.===

    Word, I think it was 19 murders that Nick Calabrese admitted to in that trial. He testified against his brother, Jimmy Marcello, Joey Lombardo and other members of the Chicago Outfit. They are all spending the rest of their days in prison. So is Nick.

    It’s not like he’s a free man. His testimony did more than put a huge dent in the Chicago Outfit, it gave some closure to the families of the victims who now know what happened to their relatives.

    Normally I agree with pretty much 100% of your comments, and I agree somewhat with your take on the US Attorney’s power. I just don’t find it disturbing or troublesome, perhaps in theory but not in practice. I believe it’s been used wisely and for positive public gain.

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s telling that DC neocons are on the same side as the Chicago mob in their hatred of Patrick Fitzgerald. He’s the only US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, in my lifetime, who isn’t interested in becoming a partner at one of Chicago’s top law firms. And so far, he isn’t interested in public office. The guy is freaking Elliot Ness, and that is exactly what this town needs.


  22. - Loop Lady - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 2:27 pm:

    This woman did not have to talk to the press. But she let us into her actions and thought process that led to her decision not to convict.
    We did not sit in on the trial,nor deliberate in the jury room. She had what was in her estimation a reasonable doubt of the criminality of RB’s statements, (intended actions?). Whether or not you laud or deride her decision is immaterial. This is how the justice system works, and if you think there is a better system, please mention it.

    The Feds as I have said before, laid out way too complicated a case, let the Adam’s in through their emotional courtroom style, and therefore Rod gets a retrial…too bad the Feds didn’t accomplish their mission the first time around…I am a taxpayer that is none too happy about funding Blago’s defense in round two…they ‘d better get their man this time…


  23. - fredformeranon - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 2:29 pm:

    I didn’t need to hear her name or hear from her. What was Chiakulas going to say other than what she said. We take people at their word way too much. when 11 of 12 see it one way, that is evidence enough to say someone got it wrong.


  24. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 2:36 pm:

    –He’s the only US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, in my lifetime, who isn’t interested in becoming a partner at one of Chicago’s top law firms–

    I’ll give him points for that. Going back to Big Jim, how many U.S. Attorney’s do you think Cellini counted as pals, before Fitz?

    Unlike others, I’m not down on Fitz personally, but I think the power of the position is too strong. Heck, through other remedies, we got rid of Blago a long time ago.


  25. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 3:12 pm:

    “We” only got rid of Blahing because he got arrested. There was nothing done to impeach until the feds provided cover.


  26. - Amalia - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 3:21 pm:

    Welcome to Chicago, Victoria Toensing. where will you
    be staying during NeoCon Defense of Rod fest?


  27. - granny - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 3:59 pm:

    I agree with George’s comment (made this am). Maybe I am naive or missed something along the way, but why are we entitled to know her reasoning? Why is she forced to explain herself? She answered her call to serve. I believe that she voted her conscience. That being said, I dont’t agree with her at all and find it unbelievable that anybody would have difficulty finding him guilty. I thought she has the right to remain silent if she wishes.


  28. - Berkeley Bear - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 4:57 pm:

    There are some real problems with the holdout’s statements. Apparently her basis for not finding a conspiracy to sell the Senate seat was that Rod Blagojevich never settled on a particular plan (bounced around among options, several of which were illegal). The problem is that legally, the moment he pitched any of those ideas (or had John Harris or others carry out intel on them) the conspiracy was complete. You can have a temporary, even fleeting, conspiracy, and once formed there has to be disavowel for it not to stick as a crime. There was no evidence he ever abandoned any plan, rather than simultaneously going after a bunch of illegal paths (and a few legal ones, although those mainly seemed to be cover). In other words, she either didn’t understand the law or she ignored it. If it was the former, I wish someone on the jury had asked the judge for clarification. If it is the latter (and 11-1 suggests as much) someone should have reported her, as apparently was contemplated. Jury nullification is not appropriate, as it means a juror is ignoring their promise to follow the law faithfully.

    I can also attest to the fact people lie in jury selection. I’ve seen it first hand in civil cases. Plus plenty of people who honestly think they aren’t biased despite having really made their minds up. So it is entirely possible she said she didn’t see a crime to friends but in selection said she could assess the evidence and follow the law, even though in the end she didn’t.


  29. - Original Rambler - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 5:06 pm:

    When will posters like anonymous 10:43, VanillaMan 11:43 (to a lesser degree), & fredformeranon 2:29 get it - the system worked as it was designed to. What if her mindset would have been “He’s guilty and I’m going to find that way no matter what” - would that have been OK since their desired result was reached? She clearly could not have been of the mindset that she was going to find him “not guilty” since she found him guilty on one count.

    Was O.J. guilty or not guilty? No matter how much we want to say “guilty” he was found “not guilty!” End of story. In Rod’s case, no one said he’s not guilty yet so he’s still free to scour the nation’s golf courses ala O.J. (in Rod’s case, scour talk show couches) to find who it was that was trying to sell that Senate seat!

    Cincinnatus 11:11 was spot on.

    Enjoy your weekend.


  30. - Wensicia - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 5:15 pm:

    Today’s story was very sympathetic to this juror, as it should be. But, you should balance her comments with those of the other jury members. The fact she couldn’t ’see’ conspiracy when the others could matched what they said. So, did she follow the law, or make her own on what a conspiracy is?


  31. - cynically anonymous - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 5:29 pm:

    As presented, the juror’s statements make sense. But those who knew her before she retired from state employment are aware that she’s a little more politically astute than today’s article would make it seem. So it is a little hard not to be a bit cynical about her being the only holdout.


  32. - tunes - Friday, Aug 27, 10 @ 10:54 pm:

    Obvious to me that she made it (laws) up as she went along. Biased to start with and lied during juror questioning.


  33. - Excessively Rabid - Saturday, Aug 28, 10 @ 10:07 pm:

    Rod Blagojevich is lone target now that brother is cleared

    Just in case anyone should notice, I would like to point out that Rob is NOT “cleared.” He was not found not guilty, and our justice system does not include a finding of innocent or exonerated or anything else like that. He was charged with multiple felony counts, the jury was hung, and he is not being retried. He is anything but cleared.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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* After ejection, White Sox's Rick Renteria offers some su...
* Indians' Corey Kluber dominates White Sox


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