Blagojevich Indicted On Corruption Charges

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich waves to his supporters after talking to the media outside of his Chicago home, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. Blagojevich was thrown out of office Thursday without a single lawmaker rising in his defense, ending a nearly two-month crisis that erupted with his arrest on charges he tried to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. Blagojevich becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y Huh
A sweeping federal indictment charges former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with scheming to auction off President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat, pressuring a congressman for campaign money and lying to FBI agents.

The 19-count indictment handed down Thursday against Blagojevich and others also alleges billions of dollars in state pension bonds were refinanced in exchange for the promise of a massive kickback, among other crimes.

Blagojevich issued a statement saying he is saddened and hurt, but not surprised by the indictment. He again asserted his innocence and said he will fight in court to clear his name.

Others indicted included the former governor's brother, his one-time chief fundraiser and his former chief of staff. Prosecutors did not indict the governor's wife, Patty, as some speculated, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

Read the indictment
"It's a sweeping indictment, broader even than the criminal complaint that preceded it late last year, involving more defendants, and if the former governor is convicted of even half the charges he's looking at perhaps dozens of years in a federal prison," says CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen.

"It's an indictment that reads as much like an organized crime takedown as it does a story about alleged government corruption and power," Cohen adds. "The strength is in the details the government says were involved in the scheme, the conspiracy, but of course those details will now be picked apart by Blagojevich's attorneys in the run-up to trial and if we get that far before the jury."

"The complaint last year focused upon the people in power, the former governor and his aide, John Harris. The indictment includes them but adds other members of the alleged conspiracy, the people whom the government now says were willing or at least trying to pay for play. It's a case now that essentially involves both sides of the coin," Cohen says.

"The defendants clearly have conflicting interests and I don't think it will be too long before at least some of them start accusing or blaming the others for conduct that is at the heart of the case," Cohen says. "That's a benefit for prosecutors, of course, and it may even generate some sort of plea deals before this case ever makes it to trial."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called against Blagojevich and the five others "very serious."

Speaking at a news conference at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Quinn also said that those indicted Thursday are entitled to their day in court.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Roland Burris said the embattled senator is focused on his work in the U.S. Senate, not the indictment filed against the man who appointed him. Earlier in the day, Burris told reporters with The Hill newspaper who caught him coming off the floor from a vote that Blagojevich's indictment "has nothing to do with me."

FBI agents arrested the Chicago Democrat in December. Illinois lawmakers impeached him and threw him out of office in January.

Blagojevich has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

The Democrat's arrest meant curtains for his political career: The Illinois House impeached him Jan. 9. The Senate convicted him and removed him from office Jan. 29.

Rather than brood, he took off on a surprise tour of national television talk shows to proclaim his innocence.

His initial chief defense counsel, Edward M. Genson, resigned, hinting Blagojevich had ignored his advice to stay quiet. Blagojevich recently signed on Genson's law partner, Terence P. Gillespie.

Now the former governor is writing a book.

Blagojevich was first elected governor in 2002, promising "reform and renewal" with Ryan headed for federal prison.