Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Top Aide Arrested on Federal Corruption Charges

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Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, who recently sought out a Presidential pardon for his former predecessor—convicted felon Gov. George Ryan—now faces federal criminal charges of his own corruption as a public servant of the state.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talking to a reporter about Illinois Sen. James Meeks school boycott, at the Chicago Defender Charities 'Back-to-School' Bud Billiken Parade on August 9, 2008.
Photo by Mary C. Johns

FBI agents arrested Blagojevich this morning at his home on two counts of corruption charges “to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.” He faces the charges with his 46-year-old chief of staff, John Harris.

U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald at the Federal Derksen Building in down-town Chicago taking field questions from reporters about the criminal complaint charges he brought against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Dec. 9, 2008.
Photo by Mary C. Johns

In intercepted court-authorized wiretaps during the last month, Blagojevich conspired with Harris and others “to sell or trade the Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife,” according to a 76-page FBI affidavit against the two of them.

According to a November 7 phone conversation about the Senate seat with Harris and an advisor, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and that he is “financially hurting.”

Just last week, on Dec.4, Blagojevich allegedly plotted to get an unnamed senate candidate in the vacant Senate seat.

The governor also was charged with seeking to place “his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year.”

The governor and his chief-of-staff were also engaged in other “pay-to-play” schemes and threatened to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company for the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of some of the Chicago newspaper’s editorial board writers who had been “sharply critical” of the governor.

Blagojevich also tried “to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions” – both historically and now in a push before a new state ethics law takes effect January 1, 2009—such as the improper awarding of State of Illinois contracts.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said this morning at a press conference at the federal building in downtown Chicago that Blagojevich and others were working “feverishly” to get as much money as they could from contractors. And he wanted to stop the governor’s “political corruption crime spree,” whose administration was under an ongoing investigation for years involving allegations of “pay to play” conduct and corruption.

“This is a sad day for government. It’s a very sad day for Illinois government. Blagojevich has taken us to a truly new low. Gov. Blagojevich has been arrested for what we describe as a political corruption crime spree. We acted to stop that crime spree,” he declared.

After his court hearing today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Blagojevich, a former prosecutor himself, was let out on a $4,500 bond.

To find out more about Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s arrest on Dec. 9, 2008, please visit the U. S. Department of Justice web site.

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