- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 20, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Sen. Roland W. Burris, Illinois Democrat, will not be charged with perjury for statements he made before a state House impeachment committee, because there isn’t enough evidence to support the charge, the state prosecutor investigating the case said Friday.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt said that while some of Mr. Burris’ statements about the circumstances surrounding his controversial appointment to the Senate by then-Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich were vague, they wouldn’t support a perjury charge.

Mr. Burris holds the Senate seat previously occupied by President Obama.

“As I have said from the beginning, I have never engaged in any pay-to-play, never perjured myself, and came to this seat in an honest and legal way,” Mr. Burris said in a statement. “Today’s announcement confirms all that.”

Burris spokesman Jim O’Connor said the senator was not available for comment Friday, and was en route from Washington to Chicago. Mr. Blagojevich’s publicist did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The lawmaker still faces an investigation by the Senate ethics committee, which is looking into the circumstances of Mr. Burris’ December appointment.

The ethics committee can recommend punishment for wrongdoing among Senate members by censuring them — a formal reprimand — or even ousting them. But the Senate hasn’t voted to dismiss a sitting member since the Civil War era.

Mr. Burris, 71, was appointed to the vacant Senate seat by Mr. Blagojevich after the FBI arrested the Democratic governor on corruption charges. Those charges included allegations that the former governor tried to sell the seat for political donations. Mr. Blagojevich, who was impeached and removed from office, has denied wrongdoing.

The new senator has been under intense scrutiny because of the circumstances surrounding his appointment and for changing his story multiple times about whether he promised anything for Mr. Blagojevich in exchange for the seat. The ethics committee began a preliminary investigation into how Mr. Burris got his job, and the Sangamon County state’s attorney was asked to determine whether perjury charges were warranted.

The senator, whose term ends in 2010, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and asserted his appointment to the Senate was legal.

According to the transcript of wiretapped conversations between Mr. Burris and Robert Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother, Mr. Burris promised to “personally do something” for the then-governor’s campaign fund while pressing Mr. Blagojevich to appoint him to the seat.

Earlier in the conversation, Mr. Burris and Robert Blagojevich explored the possibility that Mr. Burris, a former state attorney general and longtime figure in the Illinois Democratic Party, might raise campaign money on a larger scale.

“I know I could give him a check,” Mr. Burris said. “Myself.”

Burris attorney Timothy Wright has argued that Mr. Burris never wrote any checks to the Blagojevich campaign following the conversation. Mr. Burris had donated to Mr. Blagojevich’s campaigns previously.

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