What Crime Did He Actually Commit?

Despite phone taps, evidence against Blago may not secure conviction
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2008 6:30 AM CST
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald talks about the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges during a news conference in Chicago, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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(Newser) – Rod Blagojevich's foul-mouthed conversations about Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat may have been "appalling," as Patrick Fitzgerald said last week. But were they actually illegal? With no appointment made and no evidence that the governor received anything, prosecutors may have a difficult case if and when Blagojevich stands trial. "Just talking about something is not a crime," one lawyer told the New York Times.

It's perfectly legal for a politician to accept campaign contributions from an appointee; what's against the law is making the appointment dependent on a future gift, especially if it's for personal use. Fitzgerald alleges that Blagjoevich crossed that line—and associates of the US attorney say he has more evidence not yet disclosed. Several lawyers agreed that further evidence will be necessary at trial stage; otherwise, the governor can argue that he was desperate for cash, but not a crook.