Flashback: Patrick Fitzgerald Announces Rod Blagojevich's Arrest in 2009


Now that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been convicted on only one of 24 counts, with federal prosecutors pledging to retry him on the other 23 (the judge declared a mistrial on all but the one), it's odd to think back to the day Blagojevich's arrest was announced by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the star federal prosecutor who also handled the Valerie Plame leak case.

Here's an abbreviated video of that press conference, in which Fitzgerald asserts that Blagojevich  tried to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat, accused the sitting governor of a "crime spree," and said that "this is a sad day for government" and that Blagojevich's "conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave":

Here's the 13-page transcript of the press conference; you can watch the 47-minute version here.

Watching this now and remembering the day the news broke, it's striking how certain it appeared at the time--as Fitzgerald listed the allegations, including the attempted extortion of newspaper editors and a plan to obstruct the sale of Wrigley Field, and as the FBI's criminal complaint hit the press, with quotes like, "[this Senate seat is] a fucking valuable thing. You don't just give it away for free," and "they're not willing to give me anything but appreciation. Fuck them."--that Blagojevich would be convicted without much of a problem, and that he'd completely go down in flames. The morally superior Patrick Fitzgerald had made a big-time arrest, apparently snatching Blagojevich from his home only when he had the corrupt governor dead to rights.

A couple reality TV appearances later, and Blagojevich is walking out of the courtroom smiling, getting hounded by reporters the next morning with a grin on his face as he goes shopping in a lime green polo, analysts casting doubt on whether the cash-strapped state of Illinois will ask taxpayers to fund a second defense for the governor as legal fees mount, if the feds follow through on their plan to go after him again.

With another trial apparently looming, Blagojevich is still facing lots of trouble, and he is, after all, a convicted felon (as is his gubernatorial predecessor, George Ryan). But it will take a while to process this utter reversal of expectation, even if it was a year and a half in the making.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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