Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested on criminal charges on Tuesday, including trying to sell the US Senate seat being vacated by fellow Democrat President-elect Barack Obama, federal prosecutors said.
Blagojevich was also accused of threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of the Chicago Cubs’ baseball home Wrigley Field “to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical” of him.
The 51-year-old Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were charged in a 76-page federal indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. Both were taken into custody at their homes in Chicago.
In Illinois, the governor selects a successor when there is a mid-term Senate vacancy. Obama resigned from the Senate soon after winning the presidential election.
Blagojevich allegedly was caught on court-authorised wiretaps during the last month.
He was seeking a “substantial” salary for himself at a nonprofit foundation or union affiliated organisation, a spot on a corporate board for his wife, promises of campaign cash, as well as a cabinet post in exchange for his Senate choice, the FBI affidavit added.
Blagojevich, in his second term, is the latest in a string of Illinois governors to run afoul of the law. His immediate predecessor. George Ryan, is in jail following a federal corruption conviction.