June 19th, 2009
02:32 PM ET
5 years ago

Burris will not face perjury charges for Blagojevich testimony

(CNN) – Sen. Roland Burris will not face state perjury charges in connection with his sworn testimony about an alleged "pay-for-play" scheme to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, a state prosecutor said Friday.

Burris, appointed to the Senate seat just days before Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office in January, gave incomplete but truthful answers to questions about his conversations with Blagojevich's representatives, said John Schmidt, the state's attorney in Sangamon County.

Schmidt began looking at perjury charges in February amid disclosures that Burris spoke with Blagojevich's brother about possibly raising money for the governor.

"It is clear from the conversation that Robert Blagojevich's call was to raise money for Governor Blagojevich and not to discuss the vacant Senate seat," Schmidt said in a letter sent Friday to the speaker of the Illinois House.

Schmidt compared Burris' testimony to transcripts of phone calls recorded by federal investigators probing Blagojevich last fall. Those transcripts were made public last month.

Burris could not be convicted of perjury, he said.

When a state representative asked Burris under oath in January if he had spoken to members of the Blagojevich's staff or family members about his interest in the Senate seat, Burris responded, "I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes."

"This is a truthful answer," Schmidt said. The questioner could have asked him to be more specific in his response, he said.

"While Senator Burris failed to mention the phone conversations with Rob Blagojevich or John Harris, he did say he spoke to friends about his interest," Schmidt said. "The Illinois Supreme Court has consistently held the burden is on the questioner to pin the witness down as to the specific object of the questioner's inquiry."

Burris later filed an affidavit with the committee giving more details about his conversations, Schmidt said.

When the wiretap transcripts were released last month by the Illinois legislature, Burris insisted they showed no evidence of corruption in his U.S. Senate appointment.

"Did I want to be appointed to the Senate seat? Yes I did. ... Did I try to buy the seat? Never," Burris told reporters last month.

Burris added that while he wanted to keep a previous commitment "to make a personal contribution" to Blagojevich, he ultimately did not "because of the perception of impropriety that might arise."

During a November 18 conversation, Burris told Robert Blagojevich, "I know I could give him a check" - then added that he might make the contribution under the name of his attorney, Timothy Wright, "'cause Tim's not looking for an appointment."

Burris then promised that he'll write the check by December 15.

Throughout the talk, Burris pressed Blagojevich to tell him how he could help with the campaign without looking like he bought the appointment.

"I'm trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment," he said.

"I hear ya. No, I year ya," Robert Blagojevich responds.

"And, and if I do that," Burris said, "I guarantee you that that will get out and people (will say), 'Oh, Burris is doing a fundraiser' and then Rod and I both gonna catch hell. ... And if I do get appointed, that means I bought it."


Filed under: Rod Blagojevich • Roland Burris
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Luke Brown

    If there was a criminal penalty for lying in public, most of the seats in Congress would be vacant.

    June 19, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. Patriot

    Let this be the end of the persecution of a good and decent political leader.
    Roland Burris had every right as a citizen to pursue his ambition to be US Senator. And the fact that Blago was been persecuted and prosecuted shouldn't mean that Burris should give up his ambition.

    Obviously Burris was awake enough to appreciate that even the perception of impropriety was an obstacle he had to overcome. And he did a fine job walking a thin line between the reality of him being a virtuous man and the perception of so-called 'pay for play'.

    Burris is an astute and upstanding man. There is not a criminal bone in his body.
    Roland is not a lawyer and former state attorney general by being a complete idiot as some racist detractors will want to suggest.

    June 19, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Glennis

    Anyone surprised? Raise your hand. No hands? I didn't think so.

    June 19, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Sen. Roland Burris look and act little shake

    June 19, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. Dee, NJ

    Sen Burris, "Your Won" – Go into the Sun, and write a book.

    June 19, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. Lakeisha

    Should he have been convicted, there would be marches all over the place claiming discrimination. Typical.

    June 19, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  7. RR

    FYI....All politics is pay to play!.....What do you think elections are.....You have to have money to run.....

    June 19, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. nota dem

    Just like the CROOKED DEMS, let another Obama buddy off. Just like the attorney general deal, Obama CROOKS and Govt. Coruption.

    June 19, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. Hammerer

    The Dems will not face charges, they need the vote!

    June 19, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  10. Cassandra Washington

    Let's not forget all the years that Senator Burris served the State of Illinois before this. He is probably more legit than many of the other Senators; especially, Vitter and Ensign.

    June 19, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  11. NEW VOTER

    This moran has fooled the legal system. BUT be assured that this will be your end. You will be gone after your unenjoyable two years. STUPID

    June 19, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  12. Ed

    Of course he wont face charges. He's a Democrat and there are policies to charging Democrat politicians with crimes. If the Republicans are smart, they'll just buy their seats like the Democrats do!

    June 19, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  13. Bob

    Nice. More Hush Up from the Democrats. Can't open a can of worms that would point squarely back to Obama, can we???

    June 19, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  14. makesUwonder

    Perfect example of the crooks (Democrats) protecting another crook (Democrat) to further their crooked careers. DISGUSTING!

    June 19, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  15. Ken

    Wow, the vitriol (for you conservatives, it means bile or hatred) spewed by the anti-Obama crowd is really something.
    Somehow, in your tiny, atrophied narrow minds, you are linking PRESIDENT Obama (kills you, doen't it?) and the rest of the Democratic Party to the B&B comedy troupe. PRESIDENT Obama didn't have anything to do with who replaced him. And the Senate wasn't going to seat Sen. Burris at first until their lawyers told them that they had no legal alternative, as distasteful as it was.
    So, why don't you guys and gals put on some big-girl bloomers and at least act like respectful adults for a change.

    June 19, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
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