I-Team Report: Rod's road to prison

December 7, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Nearly ten years ago, when he was still a U.S. congressman and his plans to run for Illinois governor were just coming together, the first few steps on Rod's road to prison were taken.

Fittingly, it was in a garage in 2002, that the engine was started on a conspiracy which would eventually run over Blagojevich and three of his best friends.

A wealthy developer. A roofing contractor. The man who would be governor. His best friend and future chief of staff

One. Two. Three. Four. That's what Lon Monk says he and the others came to call themselves after the garage meeting even before Blagojevich was first elected governor, when an initial money-making scheme was discussed, secret profits which would be divvied up after Blagojevich left office.

Less than one year after he walked into the governor's office, federal authorities were already looking into allegations that Blagojevich associates were auctioning off state jobs and contracts in exchange for campaign funds.

At the same time, the I-Team began looking into Blagojevich's travel and spending habits; expense reports that didn't add up; misuse of police bodyguards as family valets and state vehicles that were driven cross-country so he could be chauffeured with lights and sirens.

Among the trips: to northern California for the wedding of his then chief of staff Lon Monk, where Illinois State Police blocked Sonoma County roads so Blagojevich wouldn't be delayed.

In 2004 we reported that one of the governor's top state police bodyguards considered his first responsibility to prevent any type of embarrassment by Blagojevich.

But these I-Team reports seven years ago marked just the first scandal to bubble to the surface.

On Rod's road to prison, he sideswiped more than a dozen friends, aides and confidantes. Among them, that original grouping: The developer, Tony Rezko, just sentenced to seven more years in prison; The friend, Lon Monk, who extensively cooperated with the government is expected to get 24 months in prison; The governor, on Tuesday receiving 14 years; And the roofing contractor, Chris Kelly. Two years ago, several months before going on trial with Blagojevich in the corruption case, Kelly committed suicide. He was 51.

Wednesday, in court, Judge James Zagel said that it wasn't Blagojevich's advisors who led him down the wrong road. Zagel said it was Blagojevich who marched them that way.

When Chris Kelly killed himself, he was on Rod's road to prison, and some investigators believe that Kelly simply refused to turn on Blagojevich to save himself.

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