They were close. After three weeks of respectful but increasingly tense deliberations, 11 jurors were ready to convict Rod Blagojevich of what prosecutors called a "political corruption crime spree" that would have sent yet another former Illinois governor to prison.
Not close enough. On vote after vote, the jury kept coming up one juror short - a lone holdout who wouldn't budge and would agree only that Blagojevich lied to the FBI. "The person just did not see the evidence that everyone else did," said juror Stephen Wlodek.
The guilty verdict on the least serious of the 24 counts against him, and mistrial on all the rest, led Blagojevich to taunt prosecutors in the courthouse lobby. More than a year after federal prosecutors accused him of crimes that would make Abraham Lincoln "roll over in his grave," the disgraced politician bragged about essentially fighting them to a draw.
"This fight is a lot bigger than just me and my family. This is a fight for the very freedoms that we as Americans enjoy," said Blagojevich, who promised to appeal his conviction on the single count. "The right to be able to be innocent, the right to be able to do your job and to not be lied about."
The former governor's brother and co-defendant, Robert Blagojevich, said the jury's conclusion showed he's been "an innocent target of the federal government."