SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) – Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration was corrupt even before he was elected, according to a long-awaited 19-count federal indictment. Blagojevich, 52, is charged with racketeering, wire fraud, extortion and making false statements to federal agents.
Blagojevich faces 20 years in prison and $250,000 on each of 15 counts and 5 years in prison on the false statements count if convicted.
The indictment accuses Blagojevich, a Democrat who was impeached and removed from office in February, of conspiring with associates – including his brother and his chief of staff – to earn illegal profits through official powers before Blagojevich even took office.
The associates allegedly included Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, his chief of staff, John Harris, and Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who has been convicted of federal charges relating to illegal campaign fund-raising activities – though Rezko is not a defendant in this indictment.
Prosecutors accuse Blagojevich of seeking kickbacks for refinancing billions of dollars in state pension funds, of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat, of trying to remove editors of the Chicago Tribune for perceived negative press coverage, and of extorting contributions from a children’s hospital.
The indictment also accuses Blagojevich of lying to federal agents by saying he did not know, nor want to know, who contributes to him. But the FBI allegedly wiretapped conversations in which Blagojevich discussed political donations in exchange for action from the governor’s office.
Blagojevich, who is free on bond, was in Florida at Walt Disney World with his family when the indictment was released Thursday. He issued a statement proclaiming his innocence.
Indicted were the Blagojevich; his brother Rob Blagojevich, 53, who acted as his campaign chairman; William Cellini, 74; Christopher Kelly, 50; Alonzo Monk, 50; and John Harris, 47. The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement that Harris is cooperating with the government.
The text of the indictment can be found at the icon on Courthouse News’ front page. Here is a long affidavit from an FBI agent, which was filed under seal in December.