All Blagojevich's, Rod, Patti, and Robert should be getting nervous with John Harris' guilty plea
Ex-Blagojevich aide pleads guilty, will testify
July 8, 2009 12:49 PM
John Harris, the last chief of staff to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, pleaded guilty today to a single count of wire fraud in federal court -- and agreed to cooperate in the federal probe against his former boss in return for a recommended prison term of just under 3 years.
Harris was accused of aiding some of the former governor's efforts to leverage the powers of his office in exchange for favors and campaign contributions. Among the accusations against Blagojevich is that he attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
Harris entered the plea after Assistant U.S. Atty. Carrie Hamilton detailed discussions in which Harris talked with Blagojevich about how the then-governor could personally benefit from naming a successor to Obama in the Senate.
The discussions began long before Obama's election victory, Harris said. He said he aided Blagojevich by researching his ideas or counseling him and at other times "expressed opposition" to some of the plans to profit off the Senate appointment, Hamilton said.
In reading a summary of Harris' plea agreement, Hamilton alleged that Blagojevich met with an official from the Service Employees International Union -- a person he understood to be an emissary working on behalf of Obama -- hoping to get something for himself in exchange for appointing the right candidate to fill the Senate seat.
Blagojevich was hopeful that by naming a person identified only as "Senate Candidate B" -- previously disclosed to be Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett -- he could secure an appointment to become secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services, according to the plea agreement.
Blagojevich also was interested in a possible job at a private foundation in exchange for naming Jarrett and asked Harris to look into it.
"Defendant told Blagojevich that the private foundation option would give President-elect Obama a buffer, meaning that it would not be obvious that Blagojevich was getting a position in exchange for making Senate Candidate B the senator," the plea agreement said.
Blagojevich then began to discuss the possibility that Obama supporters could set up a non-profit organization for his benefit in exchange for the appointment, the plea agreement said. Harris was asked by Blagojevich to reach out to an unidentified U.S. congressman about that possibility, but Harris did not follow through on the instructions, according to the plea agreement.