Of all the people I talked to before the verdict came down in the trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, the person who came closest to predicting it correctly was Waukegan defense lawyer Jed Stone.
Stone predicted the former governor would be convicted of lying to an FBI agent, but not on the 23 other counts against him. That's what happened, although Stone didn't predict the jury would be hung on the other counts.
On Monday, Stone explained his reasoning:
"If you look at what is going on nationally - [Lewis] "Scooter" Libby, Martha Stewart, all of those people - they all went down on lying to a government agent.
"Even [former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon] Burge didn't go down for torturing. He went down for lying about it."
(Libby and Stewart also were convicted of other charges.)
The number of convictions for lying to the government is not a trend in criminal justice that pleases everyone. One Chicago lawyer calls it "the crime of lying to the Grand Inquisitor."
Stone says convictions for lying to government agents have become "the Al Capone tax evasion cases of today." Capone was convicted of evading income tax rather than for smuggling, bootlegging liquor, bribery and his other crimes.
The prevalence of these cases, though, does raise the question of whether people will simply stop talking to federal government agents. If a large number of people took that view, even those who were not targets of a probe but were just being cautions, that could hamper investigations.
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