Jurors say Blagojevich has lost his swagger

Jurors who convicted Rod Blagojevich last summer saw a changed man Tuesday, one who has lost his swagger and was noticeably more somber.

And while visibly moved by stories of his daughters' struggles to prepare for a painful separation, some are convinced that he has earned the punishment likely to be handed down today, though perhaps not if he is sentenced to as many as 20 years.

"He looks like he lost some weight," said Jessica Hubinek, 33, of Carol Stream, who attended the first day of sentencing with three others from the second trial. "He looks pretty somber — a totally different mood than at the trial. At the trial he was more upbeat, trying to make eye contact with us. It's not like that anymore. This is a man who is … headed toward prison."

Before the sentencing hearing started, deputy marshals escorted members of both juries — about 10 in all — into the courtroom.

The first trial in 2010 ended with the jury deadlocked on all but one count — a conviction for lying to the FBI. The second trial resulted in a sweeping conviction on 17 counts in June.

During the hearing, many of the jurors peeked around other spectators or slightly stood up to get a better look at Blagojevich, especially as the defense presented the former governor as a doting father and loving husband. When an excerpt was read aloud from a letter written by Blagojevich's daughter Amy, Blagojevich and wife Patti both got choked up and wiped away tears.

Several jurors shifted in their seats and looked emotional themselves when an undercover recording was played in which Blagojevich could be heard telling his daughters he loved them. In a whisper, Blagojevich's daughter responded: "I love you too."

"I had a lump in my throat the whole time," said Connie Wilson, of Naperville, the forewoman from the second trial. "It's very difficult as a wife and mother to know how that impact is going to be on the family. We talked about that in deliberation a lot."

Wilson said Blagojevich's posture seems to have changed. In the lobby after the hearing, she said the day left her feeling sad.

"It's not just a comic-book character here," she said. "It's a real … person."

Hubinek said a sentence of eight to 10 years in prison would seem appropriate. Like other jurors, she said she didn't envy the task before U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who is expected to sentence Blagojevich on Wednesday after the prosecution makes its argument and Blagojevich addresses the court.

But James Matsumoto, the foreman from the first trial who favors a sentence closer to the 15 to 20 years being sought by prosecutors, said Blagojevich's parenting skills should not be a key issue.

"You're not being charged with being a good parent," said Matsumoto, 67, of Chicago. "You're being charged with trying to extort someone. … And this is his time to be accountable."

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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