Blago's ex-chief of staff to ask for probation at sentencing

March 8, 2012 8:55:38 AM PST
The clock is running on Rod Blagojevich's freedom. The convicted Illinois governor has until a week from Thursday to report to prison in Colorado. Before the ex-governor leaves to begin serving his 14-year sentence, his attorney says he will make a personal, public statement.

In this Intelligence Report: the day after Blagojevich goes to prison, his former chief of staff, John Harris, will be sentenced for his role in the pay-to-play scheme. Defendant Harris' Position Paper on Sentencing (PDF)

Harris was an early cooperator with federal investigators in the pay-to-play case and testified against Blagojevich at both criminal trials.

Harris will throw himself on the mercy of the court when he is sentenced on March 16th. And he has provided the court with more than 40 letters from current or former public officials -- letters that laud the corrupt ex-chief of staff and attesting to his character.

Harris, also a former budget director under Mayor Richard M. Daley, will ask for unsupervised probation when he reports for sentencing a week from Friday.

Harris has pleaded guilty and will be sentenced by Judge James Zagel, who officiated the trial of the former governor.

In a pre-sentence filing obtained by the I-Team Wednesday, Harris details his lengthy army service and lists his numerous military awards. He also cites several of the dozens of letters that have been submitted to Judge Zagel from:

  • a current state senator who says he's known "few men as committed to family community and country as John Harris"
  • one-time city library boss who says Harris was dedicated to doing what was legal and ethical
  • a former CTA president who says Harris still has much to offer
  • former state police director who calls him "a good and decent man."

Harris resigned as chief of staff in December of 2008 when he and Blagojevich were arrested.

After Blagojevich was arrested, impeached and tossed from office, he appeared on Donald Trump's Apprentice TV show and Blagojevich's wife, Patti, got a job eating bugs and doing other stunts on a reality TV show.

In Wednesday's court filing, Harris snidely states that he "did not attempt to support his family by appearing on reality shows."

Harris worked as an electrical laborer.

Judge Zagel is more likely to look at the quantity and quality of Harris' cooperation with federal prosecutors. Harris himself points to having participated in more than 25 interview sessions with the government, beginning 10 days after his arrest, each of them lasting from three to five hours and countless hours of preparation for his trial testimony at both Blagojevich trials. Harris' own lawyer calls the cooperation "extraordinary."