Sunday, September 13, 2009

Key Witness In Chicago Corruption Probe Dead From Apparent Suicide

Christopher Kelly, a roofing contractor, made millions through pay-to-play schemes in Illinois state government and Chicago city government, but this weekend he became Illinois' corrupt political system's latest victim after he died of an apparent overdose. He was scheduled to begin serving an 8-year sentence in a federal prison this week after twice pleading guilty to federal charges. He was also considered a potential key witness in the case U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is pursuing against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) if he agreed to cooperate with the government in consideration for a lesser sentence. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Kelly's death ended a tumultuous year in his life. He twice pleaded guilty to federal charges. He was estranged from his wife. And he faced serious financial problems, partly due to gambling debts. But Kelly indicated he was not going to turn on Blagojevich despite pressure from prosecutors.

The chief Blagojevich fundraiser -- who also was one of Blagojevich's closest advisers -- had been indicted three times by federal authorities in recent years, the last time in April in the sweeping conspiracy case against the ex-governor.

Kelly's death comes just four days after he made a court appearance and admitted his role in a kickback scheme to bring in $8.5 million in business at O'Hare International Airport to his roofing company. Kelly stood with his hands behind his back and shifted on his feet as he spoke to U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle, who at one point had to stop the proceedings because Kelly was speaking so softly.

"Is there some reason why you're whispering?" the judge said.

A street-smart businessman who used connections and savvy to make millions, Kelly parlayed his wealth into power before becoming a member of Blagojevich's "kitchen cabinet" of advisers. He had been at the former governor's side through much of his political life since he ran for governor.

In a hallway Tuesday, Kelly, who had asked that his comments not be reported, told a pair of reporters that the former governor did not deserve what was happening to him. "Rod Blagojevich is a good person," he said.

Kelly said he was mindful about his next life.

"That's why you stay true to who you are," he said. "I've never changed that. Never."

The former governor, who was in New York continuing a media blitz for his book, released a statement, saying he was "deeply saddened to hear that Chris has died."

"My heart goes out to his wife, Carmen, his three daughters, Grace, Jacqueline and Claire, and his entire family," the statement read. "They are in our prayers."
Tribune political columnist John Kass has a "sobering reminder on toll of corruption" in his column today.


Vox Populi said...

Do you think for a moment this was actually suicide, in the middle of a lumber yard, or (more likely, in my opinion) a murder to conceal the truth and protect Blagojevich?

Gary R. Welsh said...

From what I read, it seems plausible that he overdosed. I would never dismiss anything out of hand in the world of Chicago politics though. People have a way of dying conveniently from time to time.

I know said...

Hmm, what will happen when the Good Old Boys in Indiana start to feel the blind lady of justice descend upon them for the unfettered corruption that has made itself part of the Indiana landscape?

swan said...

It certainly did not surprise me that Forbes this month rates Chicago as the most stressful city in which to live. Thanks for this link to the savvy columnist. I am sooo sorry that Obama brought with him some of the Chicago mafioso with him to the White House, putting Emanuel Israel Rahm in charge of his staff.