Feds filed secret docs in run-up to arrest

December 10, 2008 2:57:20 PM PST
The case against governor Rod Blagojevich is based primarily on his own words. But, it came together so quickly, that federal authorities were still filing paperwork right up to the time the arrests came down. Political corruption investigations are rarely pursued like murder cases, where authorities look for a suspect with a smoking gun within 24 hours or they consider the trail cold. But as the FBI and US prosecutors were in pursuit of Governor Blagojevich, last weekend must have seemed like they were on the hot trail of a fugitive.

When federal authorities calmly walked in to announce that the governor had been arrested, it was a momentary pause in what had been a frenetic run-up to charges filed in the case.

As Governor Blagojevich was with his family at home this past weekend, the FBI was hastily preparing to arrest him and his chief of staff, John Harris. Federal agents filed a series of secret documents in federal court on Sunday, a rare and sudden weekend ramp-up to such a ground-shattering case. These included the complaint and affidavit that laid out explosive allegations that Blagojevich was trying to sell the appointment to Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder.

The government's paperwork and the warrant to arrest the governor were filed under what is called seal. According to the records, it was to remain sealed until Blagojevich was arrested. That happened Tuesday morning.

Former Governor Jim Thompson, whose law firm represented Blagojevich until they parted ways six weeks ago, told ABC7's Ravi Baichwal that he knew nothing of Blagojevich's impending arrest.

"I didn't know anything about Governor Blagojevich's issues with the US attorney until yesterday when the US attorney announced its criminal complaint," said Thompson.

Thompson's law firm, Winston and Strawn, had been representing Governor Blagojevich until five to six weeks ago. According to the governor, they no longer represent him and they don't know who will represent him at trial. It is unclear at this point why Winston and Strawn no longer represent Blagojevich, but they had been paid a substantial amount of money to represent him in affairs up to that point.

Winston and Strawn represented former Governor George Ryan pro bono in his corruption case. Governor Ryan is currently serving a prison sentence and is trying to get the White House to let him out of jail early.


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