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Mixed reaction from Blago jurors on sentence

Updated: January 9, 2012 9:24AM



Some — but not all — of the jurors who heard the evidence against Rod Blagojevich believe the judge got his sentence right on Wednesday.

But a Huntley woman thought the sentence should have been stiffer. And a couple of community college students in Elgin said the former governor’s sentence is “not relevant” since he’s no longer in office.

Not only was the sentence of 14 years a solid number to punish the former governor, but the reasoning U.S. District Judge James Zagel used in reaching that number answered a lot of questions, said Connie Wilson of Naperville, the forewoman of the jury that found Blagojevich guilty last June.

“It was just refreshing to know that things going through his head were things we had talked about in deliberation and things we could not discount,” she said after the sentencing.

Wilson said she returned to the Dirksen Federal Courthouse for the sentencing Wednesday for a simple reason: “I’m fed up.

“How many times do we want to get out of jury duty? The first thing you think of is how do you get out of it? We need smart juries. And we had a good, smart jury.”

Former juror Kimberly Spaetti of Winthrop Harbor elected not to attend the sentencing in person.

“I thought it would be uncomfortable in person with his children. It was uncomfortable being there on the day of the verdict,” Spaetti said.

But she said she kept a close eye on the proceedings and agreed with Zagel’s sentence.

“I thought it was a good amount of time,” she said. “... I was expecting about 15 years.”

“We’ll just see if he does have to serve the whole sentence,” she added.

Maribel DeLeon of West Dundee also did not attend Wednesday’s sentencing, saying she “just felt I did not want to be a part of it.”

“I did my duty,” she said of the weeks she spent on the Blagojevich jury.

She called the 14-year sentence “too harsh,” but thought Zagel was sending a message about public corruption.

“I definitely understand it,” she said. “It was a huge message, like saying, ‘You can’t keep playing these games.’ ”

Joella Melendy of Huntley told a Sun-Times Media reporter, “I wish he’d gotten more than 14 years. This sends a message to other Illinois politicians that we’re not going to put up with their corruption anymore.”

At Elgin Community College, students filled the Student Resource Center’s Jobe and Hub lounges, laptops flipped open, as the sentence was announced. That had more to do with finals approaching next week than the barrage of news-alert tweets, status updates and articles posted immediately to the Web.

Mikhail Borja of St. Charles, sitting in the Hub with his laptop and fellow nursing student Melika Panahi of Bartlett, said he gets his news on Yahoo.com. He’d seen the news of Blagojevich’s expected sentencing that morning on the website, but, he said, that’s “one of the things I skipped.”

“He’s not in office anymore. He’s not doing anything for us,” Borja said.

Panahi agreed: “I wouldn’t say it’s relevant.”

— Staff writer Emily McFarlan contributed to this story.



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