Ex-Blagojevich chief of staff sentenced to 10 days

March 27, 2012

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(AP/Gerald Herbert)
John Harris was arrested with Blagojevich.

The former chief of staff to ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to prison time Wednesday, but not very much.

At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors gave a glowing recommendation for John Harris, the man they were prosecuting. Harris was the chief of staff for Blagojevich when the two were arrested in 2008.

Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton told the judge Wednesday that Harris immediately began cooperating with investigators, "clearly doing everything he could from day one."

Hamilton called him the most important and the most credible witness against the former governor. She also argued that Harris had been worn down by Blagojevich when he worked with the former governor.

She cited one phone call that was never played at trial, in which Blagojevich called Harris the day after Thanksgiving. Harris told the governor he was hanging Christmas lights with his kids, but Hamilton says the governor talked for an hour anyway.

Judge James Zagel told Harris that he, too, had worked for elected officials. He said that he didn't know how he would've responded to a boss like Blagojevich, though he said he would have left sooner. Nonetheless Zagel said Harris was at the center of power and should therefore do time behind bars. Zagel spoke for several minutes, leaving everyone in suspense, before finally saying that the time behind bars would be only 10 days.  Harris' attorney Terry Ekl said they were relieved and pleased with the sentence.