In what is likely a stunning blow to the defense of former governor Rod Blagojevich, the attorney for former chief-of-staff John Harris indicated today that Harris is preparing to plead guilty, and will assist in the prosecution of his former boss.
"Shortly after Mr. Harris's arrest, he began to be interviewed by federal authorities, and I can tell you that during those interviews he has provided truthful information," said attorney Terry Ekl. "We anticipate that Mr. Harris may be called as a witness, and if he is called as a witness he will provide truthful testimony concerning matters he has knowledge of."
In an obvious reference to the desire of the governor to travel to Central America, to become a contestant on a program called, "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!", Ekl suggested his client is taking a much more serious approach to the ongoing proceedings.
"John Harris has not asked permission to go to Costa Rica to be on a reality show," he said. "For Mr. Harris, his wife, and his three young boys, John's reality is right in this building."
Earlier, Harris, former gubernatorial aide Chris Kelly, and Springfield power broker William Cellini stood before Judge James Zagel and pled not guilty.
In an echo of the corruption trial of former governor George Ryan, Cellini, a longtime behind-the-scenes player in many administrations, was represented by attorneys Dan Webb and Terry Gillespie. Webb was Ryan's lawyer, and Gillespie represented Ryan's co-defendant Lawrence Warner.
Webb indicated Cellini is asking to be separated from Blagojevich's case.
"Joining Mr. Cellini in this Governor Blagojevich allegations of corruption is a gross travesty of justice," said Webb, declaring that the charges against Cellini are unrelated to the Blagojevich case. "Mr. Cellini and Governor Blagojevich don't know each other. The only time they've ever met in their life is to shake hands at a political event."
Cellini was already facing charges, connected to previous fraud allegations which arose during the trial of former Blagojevich pal Tony Rezko. Those charges concerned his alleged efforts to stop a company called Capri Investments, from receiving millions in Teachers' Retirement funds. Cellini allegedly tried to deny Capri the money, unless one of its owners came up with contributions to the Blagojevich campaign committee.
"Cellini was facing a trial that would have lasted a week and a half to two weeks," said Webb. "He now finds himself in this massive allegation of corruption against Governor Blagojevich and the spillover prejudice against Mr. Cellini is extraordinary."
"Cellini and Blagojevich had no contact whatsoever!" Webb declared. "There's not one iota of evidence that there was ever any contact. Cellini's a Republican, Blagojevich is a Democrat!"