If anything sums up the Rod Blagojevich trial, it's the end, when the counts were read and Blago was found guilty on 17 counts out of 20. News camera captured Blago turning to his attorney, the work-the-media smile that was constantly on his face gone, and asking, "What happened?"
Blago is facing 10 to 15 years in the slammer for corruption. Not that this is much of a victory. Illinois is famous for political sleaze. Anyone who harbors any thoughts that politicians seek to represent the people needs only spend one term of office here to learn how it really works. It's deals. It's leverage. It's not getting caught.
Blago's hubris was his own downfall. He's always been a small fish, a social climber. He had ambitions, resulting in him marrying ward boss Dick Mell (33rd)'s daughter. His TV persona served him well, and he got elected governor of Illinois, bragging that he was a reformer out to clean up the mess after George Ryan and the licenses for bribes scandal.
Blago got his first taste of who was really in charge the day after when his daddy in law started pimping him out for political deals. Mell had an axe to grind with then-mayor Richard Daley, and now his son in law was the gov. Blago's resistance had nothing to do with an attack of conscience. He wanted to make his own deals. He wanted to be a boss. Long story short? Blago forgot his place.
Things came to a head around Christmas 2004. Mell and Blago had been having a disagreement over an in-law who wanted a piece of a Will County landfill. It spilled into the public, the press started reporting it, and that got the attention of the feds. Remember, John Dillinger wasn't killed because he was a competing mobster, he was killed because his actions brought the feds to Chicago, and the other crime bosses didn't like the spotlight, so they had him offed. Blago's behavior made him a liability, and he had to be politically rubbed out.
One of the side effects of this was payback. Mell started dropping hints in the press about Blago's inner circle, giving the feds a map to follow. Among the names he gave was Chris Kelly, billed as one of the closest insiders Blago had. Kelly got caught in the federal probe Operation Board Games, which exposed how the Democrats and Republicans in Illinois weren't in opposition, they just made it look that way as they worked together to live high on the citizens' tax dollars. Longtime political junkies like me knew about this for decades. Operation Board Games just proved we weren't conspiracy theorists. Kelly couldn't flip on his friends, and couldn't take jail time. He killed himself in September of 2009.
Blago had gotten lucky at his first trial thanks to a suspiciously hung jury. Patrick Fitzgerald, the AG leading the charge, doesn't lose, period. He refocused his strategy, dropped some co-defendants, and focused on Blago. It worked.
What now? Good question. Blago knows where a lot of bodies are buried, and probably wants some payback for those who quit guarding him and exposed him to the feds. Operation Board Games also caught William Cellini. Cellini is a multimillionaire clout for the Republicans, was indicted along with Kelly for shaking down an investment firm looking for state business. Fitzgerald doesn't fuck around, he wants to take Cellini down. Blago might offer to flip to cut his sentence, which gives him less of a jam and sticks it to the Combine running the state.
It's not over for Blago. Only the celebrity portion is over. The notoriety will continue to grow.
Your luck finally ran out.