Extension sought in Blagojevich case
Chief prosecutor requests 90 days for added work
In the latest wrinkle in the Rod Blagojevich political soap opera, the chief federal prosecutor in the case asked yesterday for more time to indict the Illinois governor.
US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald filed a motion seeking a 90-day extension, saying "multiple witnesses" have come forward in recent weeks and investigators have to review "thousands of intercepted phone calls."
Federal prosecutors usually have 30 days to file an indictment against a defendant. That deadline would have been Jan. 7, and the extension would give until April 7 for Fitzgerald, who in announcing Blagojevich's arrest on Dec. 9 accused him of a political corruption "crime spree." A spokesman for Fitzgerald said a federal judge is scheduled to review the motion at a Monday hearing.
The delay means that Blagojevich could be impeached by the Illinois Legislature before he is formally indicted, and could put more pressure on the US Senate to seat Roland Burris, whom Blagojevich announced Tuesday as his pick to fill the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, which the governor is accused of trying to sell.
Burris asked the Illinois Supreme Court yesterday to force the certification of his appointment, and said that he plans to be in Washington next week when new senators are sworn in, but he won't make a scene if he's turned away by Senate leaders who object to his appointment.
"That is not my style. I am not seeking to be confrontational," he said.
Senate Democrats reinforced Tuesday that they will not accept anyone appointed by Blagojevich - a stance backed by Obama. But Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, urged senators in a series of interviews not to judge him by the alleged sins of Blagojevich.
Burris said earlier in December that the charges against Blagojevich outline "appalling" and "reprehensible" behavior. He said in an interview yesterday that he "absolutely" stands by those statements, but that the governor remains innocent until proven guilty. Burris also wouldn't say whether he thinks Blagojevich should resign.
Burris has also not rebuffed the remarks of Representative Bobby Rush, who appeared to play the race card at Blagojevich's press conference Tuesday by noting that the new US Senate that takes office Tuesday does not have a black member and by saying that Senate Democrats should not "hang and lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer."
"It is a fact, there are no African-Americans in the United States Senate," Burris, the first African American elected statewide in Illinois, said on NBC's "Today." "Is it racism that is taking place? That's a question that someone may raise."
Democratic state Representative Monique Davis of Chicago, a member of an impeachment committee considering Blagojevich's fate, said Burris's appointment will have no bearing.
"Anybody that wants to put the race card in there, they're playing with the wrong group of people."