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Blagojevich aide pleads guilty to wire fraud

[JURIST] John Harris, former chief of staff to Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive], pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud on Wednesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [court website]. The guilty plea is the first in the high-profile case [DOJ press release, PDF] concerning the suspected efforts of Blagojevich to sell President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. As part of the agreement, Harris will testify [Reuters report] against the five remaining defendants, including Blagojevich, whose trial will begin in June 2010 [JURIST report]. In exchange for his plea and testimony, Harris will face no more than 35 months in prison [AP report].

In April, Blagojevich pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts [JURIST reports], including wire fraud, attempted extortion, racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, and making false statements. 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. Blagojevich and Harris were initially arrested [JURIST report] in December.

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