- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) - An indictment is expected as early as Thursday charging ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with presiding over state government awash in political corruption. The indictment U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald is expected to produce would replace a complaint charging Blagojevich with plotting to trade or sell President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat and a host of other corruption.

While timing of grand jury meetings is never disclosed, Thursday is believed to be the last before a Tuesday deadline for the complaint to be replaced.

Fitzgerald could ask U.S. District Court Chief Judge James F. Holderman for an extension, but all signs point to an imminent indictment.

“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, said at a news 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, 52, denies any wrongdoing. But the Democrat’s Dec. 9 arrest ended 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.

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.”

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