19-Count Indictment Alleges Corrupt Blagojevich ‘Enterprise’
Rod R. Blagojevich, the ousted Democratic governor of Illinois, used his chance to fill the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama as one more money-making plan in what federal prosecutors described Thursday as “The Blagojevich Enterprise.”
In a 19-count indictment, prosecutors said the “primary purpose of the Blagojevich Enterprise was to exercise and preserve power over the government of the state of Illinois for the financial and political benefit of” Blagojevich, his family and his friends.
The indictment was 75 pages long and had been anticipated for nearly four months since his first arrest.
Blagojevich, whose political career has unraveled since his arrest, was charged with 16 felonies, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. Five of his closest advisers — including his brother, one of his top fundraisers and two of his former chiefs of staff — were also charged with crimes.
Blagojevich, who was believed to be vacationing with his family near Walt Disney World in Florida when the indictment was announced here late Thursday, issued a statement through his publicist.
“I’m saddened and hurt, but I am not surprised by the indictment,” he said. “I am innocent. I now will fight in the courts to clear my name.”
The indictment lays out a broad pattern of corruption spanning from before Blagojevich was first elected governor in 2002 and up until the day of his arrest, Dec. 9, prosecutors said. He used his official position, the indictment suggested, to seek financial gain in nearly every element of government work, from picking members of state commissions to signing legislation.
Blagojevich sought a return on deals to grant money to a hospital, to approve legislation helpful to racetrack owners, to pick a particular candidate to fill the Senate seat and, according to the indictment, from a U.S. representative who was pressing for a $2 million grant for a publicly supported school.