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Federal judge allows disclosure of Blagojevich tapes to Senate committee

[JURIST] A federal judge ruled [order, PDF] Wednesday that recorded conversations [transcript, PDF] between the brother of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive], Robert Blagojevich, and Illinois Senator Roland Burris [official profile] could be released to the US Senate Ethics Committee [official website] to be used in the committee's investigation into the appointment of Burris. The recordings, intercepted by the FBI in November during an investigation into Rod Blagojevich, capture Burris offering to write a check to Blagojevich's campaign and discussing how to do it in the name of a third party so as to not raise suspicion. Based on the committee's request, the government applied for authorization to disclose the recordings pursuant to federal law [18 USC § 2517]. Holding that the Ethics Committee members are investigative officers under the statute, the court ruled the disclosure to be proper.

Roland Burris was appointed to the Senate by former-Governor Blagojevich to replace Barack Obama. Democratic Senate leaders protested [Chicago Tribune report] Burris's seating, reasoning that anyone appointed by Blagojevich could not effectively serve the people of Illinois. Rod and Robert Blagojevich and four associates were indicted [JURIST report] on corruption charges in April by a federal grand jury. In January, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously [JURIST report] to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office. Blagojevich is the first Illinois governor to be impeached and removed from office.

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