Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is blaming Patrick Fitzgerald for the apparent suicide of an associate.
Christopher Kelly, who died early Saturday morning in Chicago, had pleaded guilty in connection with Fitzgerald’s public corruption probe of Blagojevich and other political players in Chicago. “Somebody now has taken his life because the pressure he felt to lie about me,” Blagojevich charged in a radio interview Tuesday with The Washington Times’ America’s Morning News, The Washington Times reported.
Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, had described Blagojevich as on as a “political crime spree” in a news conference last year announcing his arrest. Blagojevich is charged with bribery and fraud in an alleged pay-to-play conspiracy. His trial is slated to begin next June.
Kelly had been an aide and a campaign fundraiser for Blagojevich. He pleaded guilty last week to taking part in an $8.5 million fraud related to hangar roofing contracts at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. He was scheduled to report to prison Sept. 18 for a nearly three-year sentence. In an unrelated case, Kelly had been sentenced to 37 months in prison for tax fraud stemming from an alleged scheme to use funds from his company to pay gambling debts.
Kelly died early Saturday morning at Stroger Hospital in Chicago. The Cook County medical examiner’s office has yet to determine a cause of death, but according to news reports, it may have involved an overdose of pain relief medication, such as aspirin. The circumstances, including comments Kelly reportedly made about ending his life, have led police to treat the case as a suicide, The Chicago Tribune reported.
During the Tuesday interview, Blagojevich said he was holding Fitzgerald personally responsible for Kelly’s death. “His allegations are false, flat out false and his tactics, his tactics are very, very much open to question,” Blagojevich said. The former governor has repeatedly complained about what he has characterized as Fitzgerald’s strong-arming of witnesses.
Blagojevich added he believed the government was pressuring Antoin Rezko, an early supporter and key fundraiser for Barack Obama, for information about the president. Rezko played a role in a much scrutinized real estate transaction involving the Obamas in Chicago. He is awaiting sentencing on corruption charges unrelated to Obama. Rezko was prosecuted by Fitzgerald.
During the interview, Blagojevich said, “Rezko wrote a letter to a federal judge saying he was being pressured to lie about me and Barack Obama,” adding, “In the letter, he said there was no wrong doing with either me or President Barack Obama.” He asserted that Rezko has “been squeezed and as a result of sitting in a jail cell for 23 out of 24 hours a day he’s now apparently changing his story about me.” He added, “So I would suggest that people take a look at the tactics.”