Friday, June 19, 2009

No proof for perjury

By Jamey Dunn
U.S. Sen. Roland Burris will not face perjury charges in Sangamon County related to his testimony in January before the Illinois House committee that impeached then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt said in a press release today that there was not enough evidence to charge Burris with the crime. Schmidt launched an investigation after it was revealed that Burris did not tell the committee about conversations he had with Rob Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother, and other close Blagojevich associates about seeking an appointment to President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. Burris said he sent an affidavit to the committee that provided that information after he realized he had forgotten to mention the conversations in his testimony.

In a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan, Schmidt said that to charge Burris with perjury would require proof that he intentionally lied to the committee. “Some of his statements were vague, but vague statements cannot support a perjury charge,” Schmidt said. He added that as long as an individual clarifies previous statements before a tribunal such as the House investigation committee concludes, it’s not considered perjury. (Letter here; press release here.)

While he said Burris’ second affidavit confirmed that he did not intend to exclude information, Schmidt did not go as far as saying Burris’ affidavit told the whole truth. But the question was not whether Burris misled anyone, but whether he intentionally misled the committee by withholding information.

Burris said in a statement today that he cooperated with the investigation and maintained that he did not commit perjury or engage in pay-to-play politics to gain his Senate seat. “I am glad I can now put this matter behind me and get on with my work in the United States Senate serving the people of Illinois,” he said.

Burris is still the subject of a U.S. Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

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