Blagojevich’s former aide’s sentencing postponed
BY DAN MIHALOPOULOS Staff Reporteremail@example.com March 16, 2012 11:56AM
File photo of John Harris, a key witness in the former Gov. Rod Blagojevich corruption trial, leaving the Dirksen Federal Building. (Photo by Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)
Updated: March 16, 2012 8:05PM
The sentencing of a former top aide of incarcerated former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was postponed Friday.
John Harris appeared in U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel’s courtroom with his wife, Patricia, and other supporters, expecting to be sentenced Friday morning.
His lawyer, Terry Ekl, said the judge “apparently felt it was better” to continue presiding over an ongoing trial and ask Harris to return on March 28.
“He wanted to make sure he gave us as much time as necessary” to make Harris’ case for leniency, Ekl said.
Harris, 50, left the courthouse without commenting, holding hands with his wife.
“I think he wanted to get it over with,” Ekl said of Harris. “Everybody wanted to see it go forward today, but everybody understands in the court system there are going to be delays.”
While Blagojevich fought the charges against him, Harris quickly agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge for his role in the corruption case in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
According to Harris’ plea deal, he warned Blagojevich against appointing U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Obama Senate seat in exchange for campaign cash. Jackson has denied making any such offer and has not been charged.
But Harris, who testified against his former boss, admitted that he broke the law in a scheme to win financial benefits for Blagojevich and his wife by appointing Valerie Jarrett to President Obama’s old Senate seat. Harris took part in a phone discussion with Washington advisers regarding how to leverage Jarrett’s appointment into a lucrative private-sector job.
Jarrett pulled out of contention and is not accused of wrongdoing. Blagojevich eventually appointed Roland Burris.
Harris joined the Blagojevich administration in 2005 after serving as budget director and as a high-ranking Aviation and Police Department official for former Mayor Richard Daley.
Blagojevich began his 14-year prison term on corruption charges Thursday in Colorado.