Chris Kelly


Christopher Kelly, one of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s closest advisers, died Saturday after overdosing on over-the-counter medication. Considering the 51-year-old was scheduled to start serving an 8-year prison sentence soon and was under pressure to turn on Blagojevich, it would not be surprising to learn Kelly committed suicide. 

Despite being indicted three times by federal prosecutors — and pleading guilty twice — Kelly never indicated he would testify against  Blagojevich in the federal corruption case against the former governor. Kelly pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud charges in January, and just days ago, pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme to direct $8.5 million in business to his roofing company.

Meanwhile, Blagojevich continues to milk his notoriety for all it’s worth, plugging his book in New York and doing his best to lie to people with a straight face. I hope he thinks about Kelly when he lays down to sleep tonight.

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And then there were five.

After Monday’s two-hour episode of “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” — and with only two episodes left — only Patti Blagojevich, Sanjaya Malakar, Lou Diamond Phillips, John Salley and Torrie Wilson remain in the Costa Rican jungle. The phone lines currently are open for people to vote which celebrities they want to see stay for the final episode Wednesday. Two of them will be booted from the jungle by the end of Tuesday’s show.

At the end of Monday’s episode, the quasi-celebrities made brief, live comments stating why they think viewers should vote in favor of them. Here’s Patti Blagojevich’s statement: “So, in the last 22 days, I’ve nearly drowned in a river, I’ve been bitten by a tick, I’ve eaten a tarantula, I’ve had Janice (Dickinson) strapped to my back, but most importantly, I’ve earned the respect of my camp mates, which is why I think I should be ‘queen of the jungle.'”

A few minutes earlier in the show, Phillips reflected on Blagojevich’s apparent popularity.

“Patti Blagojevich seems to have a following, and that could be a dangerous thing,” Phillips said.

Blagojevich certainly has been cast as POP (Poor Oppressed Patti), and she plays up that role every time she makes a comment like this one from Monday’s episode: “This experience has been a step away from the problems we’ve been having the last six or seven months, but this could’ve been just what I needed at this time and really gotten me stronger for the fight ahead.”

Judging by some of the “Celebrity” feedback I’ve gotten via Twitter, the POP role is working for Blagojevich. One fellow who follows my “I’m A Celebrity” tweets recently noted that if Blagojevich wins thanks to viewers not voting her off the show, the message is sent that we don’t care about celebrities. His point is well taken, though I must add that our society’s infatuation with celebrities (and even quasi-celebrities) is exactly why shows like this exist — and are watched in large numbers — in the first place.

There isn’t much else to report about POP from Monday’s episode other than her loss of 10 pounds during 21 days in the jungle and her immediate withdrawal from the day’s food trial, which involved sticking one’s head in a plastic box filled with jungle critters.

* * *

Back in reality (as opposed to reality TV), Christopher Kelly was sentenced Monday to 37 months in prison on federal tax fraud charges. Kelly, a former adviser and chief fundraiser for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, pleaded guilty to the charges in January.

In addition to being indicted in the Blagojevich corruption case, Kelly also still faces charges that he was involved in “a kickback scheme to rip off United and American Airlines at O’Hare International Airport through a roofing company he owned,” according to the Chicago Tribune‘s Jeff Coen. There is no indication Kelly is cooperating with prosecutors to testify against Blagojevich.

Since Kelly is such a good pal of Blagojevich — so good a pal he won’t squeal on him to save his own hide — perhaps the prison can provide him with a few bars of Blago soap to use behind bars. I wish I had a photo of the Blago soap I recently saw for sale at The Alley, but alas, you’ll have to visualize for yourself the bars of soap that have the former governor’s likeness on one side and one of several “Blago phrases” on the other side. When I saw the soap, I wondered who would rub Rod’s likeness on their naked body, but now I think I have my answer. Christopher Kelly would.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and five others were indicted today on federal criminal charges alleging they participated in a wide-ranging scheme to use the governor’s office for financial gain.

Also indicted were Robert Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother; Christopher Kelly, a former Blagojevich fundraiser; Lon Monk, a lobbyist and longtime Blagojevich associate; John Harris, a former Blagojevich chief of staff; and William Cellini Sr., a Springfield businessman who raised significant funds for Blagojevich.

The 75-page indictment includes 19 counts. The former governor is charged with 16 felonies, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. The former governor’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, is mentioned in the indictment papers but is not formally charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

So where was Blagojevich when the indictments were handed down? Vacationing at Disney World with his family.

I’ll post more about this topic after I read the entire indictment document.

It was only a matter of time before a federal probe hit former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s wife, too. Here’s part of the story from Thursday’s Chicago Sun-Times:

Federal authorities have hit former first lady Patti Blagojevich with a federal subpoena dealing with recent charges lodged against her husband, raising new questions over whether she will become part of a grand jury indictment expected by early April.

The subpoena, with which Patti Blagojevich reportedly complied, asked for any documents, notes or e-mails she had related to more than 40 people or entities — from former gubernatorial fund-raisers Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly to her own real estate dealings.

Patti Blagojevich’s lawyer, Raymond Pijon, told the Chicago Sun-Times that federal authorities have great discretion over whether to charge her — and that he hopes they’ll consider the “family structure” as they weigh that decision.

“I’ve seen it happen on a number of occasions; they elect not to bring in other family members,” Pijon said.

Just because she has been cooperative doesn’t mean she’s going to flip on her husband, her lawyer said.

“I think they’re close as a couple and obviously have a lot of things in common,” Pijon said.

Federal investigators have been scrutinizing Patti Blagojevich’s real estate dealings in recent years.

If Pijon is right that charges may not be brought against Patti Blagojevich for the sake of her two young daughters, the former first lady will be awfully lucky. If she was involved with shady real estate dealings that sent others to prison, she should be punished, too — at least with a significant fine and suspension of her real estate license.

Pijon certainly is correct about Rod and Patti having “a lot of things in common.” The Blagojeviches are both unemployed, foulmouthed, defiant and crooked.

And neither has a snowball’s chance in hell to win in the court of public opinion.