Blagojevich jurors: Tapes made case against ex-governor

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The jurors who found Rod Blagojevich guilty of federal corruption charges on Monday said they deliberated methodically and began with the presumption that he was innocent.

But in the end, federal recordings of Blagojevich's conversations with former aides, advisors and political fundraisers persuaded them he was guilty of most of the charges.

"We felt that it was very clear that he was making a trade for the senate seat," said one juror, a female teacher who said when she was being questioned for jury service that she thought politics was dirty business.

The government's evidence in the case centered on more than 70 taped conversations of Blagojevich scheming with aides to trade the senate seat and conduct other official action in exchange for money or personal benefits.

On those tapes, jurors said they heard the former Illinois governor ask many times for deals.

All 12 jurors agreed to meet with reporters Monday. One said they agreed to do so because they hoped the media would respect their privacy later. US District Judge James Zagel said he would release the jurors' names on Tuesday morning.

The jury in Blagojevich's first corruption trial last summer failed to reach a verdict on all but one of 24 counts, and some jurors had complained the case was too complicated.

Prosecutors cut four of the most complex counts from the case for the retrial. The prosecution made a better presentation this time as a result of what it learned from the previous trial, according to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Asked about their reaction to Blagojevich's testimony, the jurors agreed he was likable and saw him in human terms. "I think because he was personable it made it hard to separate that from what we actually had to do as jurors," said one juror, a computer programmer.

Personable or not, the juror who is a female teacher said of Blagojevich's testimony: "I honestly thought at times it was manipulative."

The jurors said they approached their task methodically, dealing with each scheme separately. The Senate seat allegations were the easiest -- although jurors were divided on some of the counts at one point -- because of the tapes, they said.

"There were several times we had to vote and revote and listen to the tapes and go through all our notes," one juror said.

The real drama in the case began, said the juror who is a computer programmer, when lead prosecutor Reid Schar stood up to begin cross examining Blagojevich and said "you are a convicted liar" referring to Blagojevich's conviction of lying to investigators after his first trial.

"That scared us all to death," the juror said, laughing. "We were so nervous after that little segment of the trial. We were unanimous on that one. The trial up until then had not been very dramatic ... until he came out and did that."

She noted that her experience was quite different than what she had seen on television law shows like "Law and Order."

The jurors said they didn't buy Blagojevich's argument that he was planning to appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat vacated by then President-Elect Barack Obama in exchange for a deal with her father, powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, to pass his legal initiatives.

There was never any evidence that Blagojevich followed through on that deal by inviting Lisa Madigan in for a talk, one juror said.

The jurors said they found government witness Bradley Tusk the most credible because he had nothing to gain by testifying truthfully. They found witness Lon Monk the least credible because he had lied so many times, was prosecuted for a crime and admitted that he took money from political fixer Antonin "Tony" Rezko.

That politics is a dirty business seemed to be the consensus among the jurors.

"I told my husband that if he were running for politics, he'd probably have to find a new wife," said the jury forewoman, a retired director of music and liturgy at a church.

She added that she believes the verdict "sends a message" that dirty politics will not be tolerated.

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