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. Imarriedmy sister in Mississippi

    Im even smarter than this guy,Burress.When it rains I just grab my bar of soap.

    June 19, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  2. MattNE

    Democrats:

    Culture.

    Of

    Corruption.

    Investigate them all!

    June 19, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  3. Dan

    The Senator should resign – he basically wanted this coveted seat only for personal gain – he kept saying that he is only serving his constituents. Sorry – he is a seasoned crook.

    June 19, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. Crazy Blago & His Crazy Friend

    So Burris and Blago win again. People should wake up. The citizens of Illinois deserve better and so does the country. They should be ousted from ever serving the government. Yes, the people will vote Burris out, but it will be too little, too late. This man just wanted to be a senator, and he got his wish. That's sad for us. LIke Clarence Thomas he played the race card when it suited him, then never looked back.

    June 19, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  5. Tatianna

    Of course Burris will not face perjury charge, if he did dems would scream America is racist.

    June 19, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  6. skyhawkdriver

    Of course..if he was a republican he would be swinging from the yardarm..blago and burris both need to be in leavenworth making little rocks out of big ones

    June 19, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. LIP

    Finally putting this one to bed...let's move on now and let this person be a Senator. Burrish is a good person who had to dance a fine line and did well, all things considered and does not deserve any of what has transpired.

    June 19, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  8. Trade Freedom for Security, Lose Both

    Another lying politician gets off easy.

    June 19, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. AK, CA

    I care less. Roland Burris fought to become a senator and he won. What is wrong with that?

    June 19, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. Dawn In Pa

    I am a Democrat but I actually feel he was pay to play, but the US Attorney and the State Attorney General, decisions. I believer a Democrat will be take that spot in 2010.

    June 19, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. whaley41

    Did anyone really believe he would face charges?

    June 19, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  12. Tim

    Time to go home now, the circus is over. But don't fret, it will be back shortly.

    June 19, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. Sherrol in Canada

    I'be said from the very beginning that Burris is a fraud. When will he go away? Get rid of him already!!!!!

    June 19, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. Sherrol in Canada

    He is as useless and idiotic as Palin!!!

    June 19, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  15. Mississippi Mike

    Democrats don't commit crimes they fall prey to glitches or human mistakes. Bribing Blago was simply a misunderstanding.

    June 19, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  16. John H.

    This is how politicians get off the hook. They tell incomplete stories, not lies.

    Does anyone know what Burris' I.Q. is? Can't be much above 80 – have you listened to him talk? Way to go Illinois- another dummy in the Senate – already loaded to the gills with them!

    June 19, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  17. R in Maine

    He should keep his position. It will do the other senators good to have to face this criminal on a daily basis.

    June 19, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  18. Obama's america

    Well another guilty as hell Obamacrat gets off.First he says he didn't talk to anybody about raising money,then he admitted that he lied and he talked to blago's brother about raising money,and he's not guilty?You know if he were a conservative republican his fellow Obamacrats would be foaming at the mouth to see him in stripes!

    June 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  19. Marie in California

    That's baloney! Burris SHOULD face charges. He's dirty.

    June 19, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  20. munchmom

    And I guess Obama had his hands in this mess to help Burris avoid the charges??? Nepotism, cronyism, whatever you call it, a rose by any other name......

    June 19, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. SLM

    Ofcourse not, what a little weasel this guy is.

    June 19, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  22. Melissa

    Corruption wins again. Disgusting.

    June 19, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  23. Eric N

    Good for Burris! At least he will make it through this interim term and we (American Taxpayers) will pay for his Senatorial pension for the rest of his life.

    June 19, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  24. wmcauth07

    Obviously, even prosecutors known Burris isn't going to be around long.

    June 19, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  25. dreamer

    Now we see the true presidental politics in action.Talk about getting away with a crime.

    June 19, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
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