Federal prosecutors yesterday charged ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich with several corruption-related felonies – but not his wife, Patti, even though they allege she participated in her husband's alleged corruption schemes.
In a December criminal complaint, as well as in yesterday's indictment, prosecutors led by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald allege Patti was aware of and involved in her husband's corrupt schemes – even allegedly profited from them.
Some who have followed the case closely believe Patti could still be charged.
"I would not say she's off the table," said Cindi Canary, of the Chicago-based watchdog Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "I think the indictment gives pretty strong signals how very clearly her activities are described. . . . it's spelled out pretty baldly that she was a party to all of this."
Fitzgerald spokesman Randall Samborn declined Friday to discuss Patti's situation, saying "we just don't comment on people we have not charged."
A call to Patti Blagojevich's personal lawyer, Raymond Pijon, was not immediately returned.
As part of her husband's alleged corruption scheme, prosecutors say, the former Illinois first lady received tens of thousands of dollars from Illinois political operative Antoin "Tony" Rezko as part of a real estate deal in which she did little or no work. Rezko was convicted last year on over a dozen corruption charges related to influence-peddling involving the Blagojevich administration.
Prosecutors also have said they taped the former first lady intervening in her husband's business calls, which were part of his alleged corruption.
"[H]old up that f---ing Cubs s--t. . . f--- them," she was allegedly heard saying on one wiretapped phone conversation, referring to a financial proposal by the Tribune newspaper company to build a new stadium for the Cubs baseball team, which it owned. Later in the conversation, she allegedly took the phone from her husband to tell his aide he should instruct the Tribune to "just fire" editorial writers who voiced negative opinions of her husband.
She also participated in at least one conference call in which her husband discussed appointing President Barack Obama's choice candidate to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama's presidential win in exchange for Obama arranging to install Patti Blagojevich in lucrative board seats at U.S. corporations.
During the conversation – which did not include an Obama representative – Patti offered that she was "qualified to sit on corporate boards and has a background in real estate and appraisals," prosecutors wrote in their December 2008 complaint against her husband.
As recently as last month there was speculation that Patti Blagojevich could be indicted. In February prosecutors subpoenaed documents from the former Illinois first lady, who had retained her own lawyer. She reportedly complied with the subpoena. Her lawyer, Raymond Pijon, worried aloud to reporters that he hoped prosecutors would consider the Blagojevich's "family structure" when bringing their indictment.
Patti Blagojevich was exposed to Illinois politics since childhood, while she has said her husband had no political ambitions until meeting her.
Federal investigators have reportedly been probing her real estate business and commissions it earned. An investigation by the Chicago Tribune last year determined that most of its earnings since Blagojevich began his first gubernatorial bid in 2000 came from politically-connected clients.
She left real estate late last year to take a job as a fundraising chief for a Chicago nonprofit, the Chicago Christian Industrialist League. The former first lady was reportedly fired from that post in January.