Blagojevich Corruption Indictment Deadline Nears

Facing a deadline just days away, federal prosecutors are expected to unveil an indictment as early as Thursday charging ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich with presiding over state government awash in political corruption.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald has until Tuesday to produce a grand jury indictment that would replace a complaint charging the former governor with plotting to trade or sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and a host of other corruption.

While the government never announces the time and place of grand jury meetings, Thursday is believed to be the last meeting before the deadline.

Fitzgerald could ask Chief Judge James F. Holderman of U.S. District Court for another deadline extension. But all signs point to an imminent indictment against the 52-year-old impeached governor.

"We're just hours away from a massive pay-to-play indictment against Gov. Blagojevich and possibly others," former federal prosecutor Patrick M. Collins, who sent Gov. George Ryan to prison for racketeering, told a press conference Tuesday.

In addition to the Senate seat allegations, an affidavit accompanying the December complaint accuses Blagojevich of trying to use his political power to pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers calling for his impeachment. Blagojevich denies any wrongdoing.

Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest meant curtains for his political career.

The Illinois House impeached him Jan. 9. The Senate convicted him and removed him from office Jan. 29.

Rather than brood, though, he took off on a surprise tour of national television talk shows to proclaim his innocence.

His initial chief defense counsel, Edward M. Genson, resigned, hinting Blagojevich had ignored his advice to stay quiet. Blagojevich recently signed on Genson's law partner, Terence P. Gillespie.

Now the former governor is writing a book.

Blagojevich was first elected governor in 2002, promising "reform and renewal" with Ryan headed for federal prison.

But questions soon arose over his two top fundraisers, real estate developer Tony Rezko and roofing contractor Christopher G. Kelly. A wide-ranging federal investigation began, covering everything from Blagojevich's hiring practices to real estate commissions Rezko paid to the governor's wife.

The scandal haunted Blagojevich's tenure as governor.

Kelly pleaded guilty to a tax charge. Rezko was convicted of using clout with the Blagojevich administration to gain control of two state boards and using that power in a scheme to squeeze companies seeking state business for $7 million in kickbacks.

The Rezko trial handed Blagojevich a nasty black eye.

On the stand, one campaign contributor said Blagojevich openly dangled big-money contracts if he would raise campaign funds. Another witness testified Blagojevich spoke of getting him a state job while his check for $25,000 to the governor's campaign fund lay on the table.

To each new disclosure, Blagojevich aides insisted he was innocent and didn't "do business that way."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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