Will Kelly's death impact Blago case?

September 14, 2009 (CHICAGO) The corruption trial of impeached governor Rod Blagojevich and Chris Kelly wasn't scheduled to start until next June. So there is a lot of time for Blagojevich's lawyers and government prosecutors to make strategic adjustments due to the loss of Mr. Kelly as a defendant.

"You have a conspiracy and now all of a sudden you have an empty chair that creates a hole in the case," said Ronald Safer, former federal prosecutor.

According to former federal prosecutor Ron Safer, the defense table chair that Kelly would have occupied represents more than just a seat.

In the federal case against ex-governor Blagojevich, Mr. Kelly was a major link in the alleged pay-to-play conspiracy.

Kelly worked not only as Blagojevich's chief fund-raiser, but also as an ex-officio Illinois governor, most notably in trying to broker a Rosemont casino deal.

That evidence will still be presented at trial. Blagojevich says that the government drove Kelly to suicide by putting the strong arm on him to flip and take the witness stand.

"They were trying to get him to lie about me and lead into the suicide, so he would take his life and deprive a little girl of a father," said Rod Blagojevich.

"I think it was the pressure to go to prison. He was about to start a long jail term. That is difficult for anybody but certainly for somebody who enjoyed the lifestyle that he enjoyed, it was something that he apparently could not deal with. I do not buy that it was pressure to cooperation with the federal government. He has said repeatedly that he is not going to cooperate. This didn't add pressure to that decision," said Ronald Safer, former federal prosecutor.

Once the U.S. Attorney receives official notice of Chris Kelly's death, governor lawyers will file motions to dismiss the charges against him in both of the cases to which he already pleaded guilty and was headed to prison this Friday and in the case where he was to be a co-defendant with Blagojevich.

According to Safer, the Blagojevich prosecution will remain on track.

"No way that this results in the case going away. It's still a case that will be judged on the merits against Blagojevich whether or not Kelly is there," said Safer.

Even as authorities question Kelly's girlfriend who was with him on the fatal night, Kelly's published death notice on Monday lists him as a loving husband to his wife and a loving father.

And in stark contrast to the man who seemed to have a multitude of friends on Kelly's page of guest memories, there is only one telling him to rest in peace.

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