Lon Monk


Lost somewhat in the shuffle of Illinois political news Wednesday was former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris’s guilty plea that included a promise to be a government witness in the federal corruption case against the former governor.

Judging from what the Chicago Tribune reported about the 26-page plea agreement, Rod Blagojevich should be quaking in his boots.

John Harris, who was arrested with the former governor in December, is expected to detail for prosecutors perhaps the most stunning charge in the case: how Blagojevich allegedly used his power to appoint a successor to President Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate to barter to enrich himself.

In exchange for Harris’ testimony, prosecutors agreed to recommend he serve less than 3 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud and is expected to be one of a series of former aides and confidants — fellow chiefs of staff Alonzo “Lon” Monk and John Wyma as well as fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko among them — to testify against Blagojevich.

The plea agreement alleges that the former governor viewed the Senate appointment as a unique opportunity to try to bargain with the new Obama administration, perhaps leading to a Cabinet or ambassador’s post.

But Blagojevich isn’t the only person who should be worried. As I suggested on this blog in early April, and Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass noted in his column today, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley might be quaking in his boots, too. If Harris has knowledge pertaining to any other federal corruption cases, he will be a government witness in those cases, too. And before he was Blagojevich’s chief of staff, Harris was Daley’s chief of staff and served in other high-ranking positions in Daley’s administration. If U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating anything related to the Daley administration, Harris is a go-to guy for inside information.

To drive home my point, read this quote from Harris’s attorney, Terry Ekl:

“I’ll tell you this: When John Harris began to cooperate with the government, he did not pick and choose the subject matters. He’s been questioned about a variety of subjects. He’s been truthful and honest about all of those, and I’m not going to have anything further to say about what he has talked about in terms of other investigations.”

Hopefully Ekl doesn’t need to say anything more in order for fear to be struck into the hearts of corrupt Chicago politicians. However, it is more likely they expect to beat the rap, as has often been the case when the Chicago political machine is involved.

But maybe this time will be different. At least we can hope so.

Now that Patti Blagojevich’s jungle adventure is over, it’s time for the Blagojeviches to remember why NBC wanted one of them to be on “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” in the first place.

Her husband, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, faces 16 felony charges of criminal corruption, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. Today U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel set Blagojevich’s trial to begin June 3, 2010. Two of Blagojevich’s co-defendants, Lon Monk and John Harris (both former Blagojevich chiefs of staff) are cooperating with authorities and are expected to take the stand as government witnesses if the case goes to trial.

The fun and games should be over for the Blagojeviches now, as they have only 11 months to prepare for what surely will be a lengthy trial, and that preparation includes sifting through about 3.5 million pages of documents. Have fun doing that, Blagojevich lawyers.

In reality, the fun probably isn’t over for the Blagojeviches, particularly Rod. I figure Rod will keep popping up in the media until the day he gets taken away to prison. But what about Patti? One of my Twitter followers jokingly suggested Patti can appear on next year’s edition of “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” before the jurors are chosen for her husband’s trial. I’m sure Patti will be invited back on the show, but I doubt she will be a contestant again, mostly because the show likely would air as Rod’s trial is just getting under way. Patti will want to stay home with their children after the trial begins.

Besides that, by this time next year, Patti may have her own trial to start worrying about.

Lon Monk, a former chief of staff to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, pleaded not guilty in the Blagojevich corruption case today. He is charged with one count of wire fraud.

However, federal prosecutors said Monk is cooperating with authorities and will take the stand as a government witness if the case goes to trial. Another former Blagojevich chief of staff, John Harris, is also known to be cooperating with the government.

I think Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass’s nickname for Blagojevich — “Dead Meat” — is pretty accurate if two of the former governor’s chiefs of staff are willing to testify against their former boss. The question is, will Harris be just as forthcoming with information from his days as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s chief of staff? It seems logical for the feds to try getting it out of him as part of a plea deal.

It is also worth remembering that Roland Burris, who is a U.S. senator thanks to Blagojevich’s tainted appointment power, testified before the Illinois House impeachment committee that he approached Monk (who at that point was a lobbyist with close ties to Blagojevich) about getting more state business for his law firm and, oh yeah, he is interested in President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, too.

The bottom line is there are multiple people who ought to be squirming after hearing Monk and Harris are cooperating with the government. I can’t wait for all the dirty laundry to be aired. The day of reckoning approaches for at least some of the corrupt politicians in Illinois.

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.