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Why Rod Blagojevich was convicted on only one of 24 counts

The count of lying to the FBI – the one conviction the jury in the Rod Blagojevich trial handed down Tuesday – is often included to make sure a jury returns at least one guilty verdict. The other counts may have been too complex.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks to the media at the Federal Court building in Chicago Tuesday. Next to Blagojevich is his wife Patti. A federal jury found Blagojevich guilty on Tuesday of one count of lying to federal agents, and the judge said he intended to declare a mistrial on the more serious remaining 23 counts.

Kiichiro Sato/AP

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty Tuesday on just one of the 24 counts he faced in his federal corruption trial over allegations he attempted to swap official acts as governor for money.

After deliberating 14 days, the jury convicted Mr. Blagojevich of lying to the FBI in a verdict that could send him to jail for up to 5 years.

The jury was deadlocked on the remaining 23 counts – including bribery, fraud, conspiracy, and racketeering – and could not reach a verdict on charges against Robert Blagojevich, the impeached governor’s brother.

US District Judge James Zagel declared a mistrial regarding the deadlocked counts and said federal prosecutors have until Aug. 26 to decide whether to retry the case before a different jury. Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that they will seek another trial.

Outside the courtroom, Blagojevich reaffirmed his innocence to reporters and called the single count he was found guilty on “nebulous.”

"The government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me … I did not lie to the FBI. I told the truth from the very beginning,” he said.

He said US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald “wasted and wanted to spend tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.”

Blagojevich was found guilty of telling federal agents he has "tried to maintain a firewall between politics and government” and that he "does not track, or want to know, who contributes to him or how much they are contributing to him.”

Stuart Slotnick, a New York City criminal defense attorney who specializes in white collar crimes, calls the statements “puffing you would expect from a politician” and says the count of lying to the FBI is typically used to safeguard a guilty verdict in cases like this one, which may involve other charges a jury may consider too complex to sort out.

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