Key Blagojevich player is dead, ex-governor says

Christopher Kelly, 51, was former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's chief fundraiser.
Christopher Kelly, former chief fundraiser for ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has died, according to a statement Saturday from the former governor.

“I am deeply saddened to hear that Chris had died,” Blagojevich’s statement said. Cook County, Illinois, authorities would not immediately comment on the reported death. No other details were immediately available. Blagojevich was in New York and declined to comment further. Earlier this year, Blagojevich, who was impeached and removed from office, pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges. A federal grand jury in April indicted him on 16 felony counts, including racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud and making false statements to investigators. The indictment also named some of Blagojevich’s closest aides, including Kelly; former Chief of Staff John Harris; and Springfield millionaire William Cellini.

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On Tuesday in a separate case, Kelly pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud “as part of a kickback scheme to illegally obtain $8.5 million in work at O’Hare International Airport,” the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday in story about his death on the newspaper’s Web site. “At the time, Kelly, 51, said he was under pressure from federal prosecutors to cooperate in their investigation of Blagojevich, but he refused,” the Tribune reported.