- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 7, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) | A county prosecutor exploring the possibility of perjury charges against U.S. Sen. Roland W. Burris has asked federal officials for FBI tapes of phone conversations between Mr. Burris and ousted Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s brother, a person with knowledge of the case said Friday.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt wants to compare the taped conversations with what Mr. Burris said under oath before the state House committee that voted to impeach Mr. Blagojevich, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter could come before a grand jury.

Mr. Schmidt’s request, first reported in Friday editions of the Chicago Sun-Times, comes after Mr. Burris repeatedly changed his story about his contact with Mr. Blagojevich’s friends and aides in advance of being appointed to the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

It was not clear whether federal officials would give tapes to Mr. Schmidt, but the U.S. attorney’s office did release four FBI wiretaps of Blagojevich conversations - edited to delete information the government considered too sensitive - to state lawmakers who ultimately removed Blagojevich from office in January.

Mr. Burris provided the impeachment panel with an affidavit in January saying he had no contact with anyone close to the then-governor about the seat until a Blagojevich attorney approached him about it. Under questioning by the panel, Mr. Burris also said he had spoken with some “friends” and lobbyist Lon Monk, a former Blagojevich aide.

But a fresh affidavit dated Feb. 4 said that even before the election, the governor’s brother, Robert Blagojevich, asked him to raise funds. And in one of two phone calls between them after the election, Mr. Burris said, he told the brother he couldn’t raise funds for the governor because he was interested in the seat.

At a Feb. 16 appearance in Peoria, Mr. Burris told reporters he had tried to raise money for the governor but had been unable to do so.

Republicans immediately started pressing Mr. Schmidt to determine whether a perjury investigation was warranted. Perjury is an intentional misstatement of a material fact while under oath. Mr. Burris has said the questions came so fast he didn’t have an adequate chance to answer as fully as he might have before the committee.

Robert Blagojevich is the chairman of the former governor’s campaign fund - Friends of Rod Blagojevich. His attorney, Michael Ettinger, has said his client called Mr. Burris about raising money for the campaign because he had been a fundraiser for Mr. Blagojevich in previous years.

An attorney for Mr. Burris said Friday that a summary of events and legal arguments explaining how Mr. Burris got appointed has been submitted to a prosecutor investigating perjury charges. Mr. Burris last week promised a “concise document” that would prove he didn’t mislead the House committee.

Burris attorney Timothy Wright III said the summary was given to Mr. Schmidt, who declined to comment.

Mr. Burris’ Washington office also declined to comment

Then-Gov. Blagojevich was arrested by FBI agents Dec. 9 after being charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to sell the Senate seat and using his powers to squeeze money out of state contractors and others. He has repeatedly denied violating any laws. Federal officials based their charges partially on wiretaps of his home phone and of the phone at the Friends of Blagojevich offices.

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