Former governor of Illinois indicted on corruption charges

Friday, April 3, 2009

Milorad "Rod" Blagojevich

Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of the US state of Illinois, was indicted on Thursday on charges of corruption for allegedly planning to "sell" Barack Obama's Senate seat when the latter vacated it to become President.

Five of his advisers, including Blagojevich's brother Robert, were also indicted. The others are former fundraiser, Christopher Kelly, former chief of staff John Harris, former aide Lon Monk, and the lobbyist William Cellini.

A jury indicted Blagojevich on sixteen felony counts, among them wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, and racketeering conspiracy. The indictment states that if convicted, the ex-governor could face over three hundred years in prison, as well as US$4 million worth of fines, including restitution.

The governor insists that he did nothing illegal, and claims that he was the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt. He pledged to fight his charges in court.

"I'm saddened and hurt but I am not surprised by the indictment. I am innocent," read a statement released by Blagojevich. "I now will fight in the courts to clear my name. I would ask the good people of Illinois to wait for the trial and afford me the presumption of innocence that they would give to all their friends and neighbors."

Blagojevich, a governor serving his second term, was arrested on December 9 of last year on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Shortly thereafter, the Illinois House impeached him before the Senate, which nearly unanimously convicted him and expelled him from office.