Your NPR news source

Scott Fawell's Take on Kelly's Apparent Suicide

SHARE Scott Fawell's Take on Kelly's Apparent Suicide
Scott Fawell's Take on Kelly's Apparent Suicide

Scott Fawell (AP/File)

Police are hoping the return of the regular work week will help them fill in details surrounding the death of a fundraiser for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Fifty-one-year-old Chris Kelly apparently committed suicide.


Police Talking to Chris Kelly’s Girlfriend on Monday

Police hope to access hospital records today that were tough to get over the weekend because doctors were off. Kelly apparently swallowed pills late friday that caused his death at about 11 Saturday morning. The Cook County Medical Examiner has conducted an autopsy but can’t determine a cause of death until toxicology tests are completed, something that will take several weeks. But police are treating it as a suicide.

WELCH: Based on what the victim said to the officer at the hospital we’re fairly certain of that, yes.

Dwight Welch is the mayor of Country Club Hills, South of Chicago. It’s his police department that’s investigating because that’s where Kelly pulled over his Cadillac Escalade and took the pills. An officer talked to Kelly early Saturday morning at the hospital and Welch says Kelly said he took medication for pain from a surgery, but didn’t admit a suicide attempt. Welch says Kelly was sitting up on a gurney when the officer interviewed him.

WELCH: Mr. Kelly was very hesitant, very ill. He was not feeling well. The officer said he didn’t really comment. He was very defensive.

Just last Tuesday Kelly told a federal judge that there was a lot of pressure in his life right now. Prosecutors had charged him in three separate cases over the last couple years in an attempt to get him to flip on his friend Rod Blagojevich. In the first case, Kelly refused to cooperate instead he pleaded guilty and took a three year sentence. He did the same last week in the second case and was looking at another five years for that. The third case was the one in which he was charged as a co-defendant along with Blagojevich.

FAWELL: They paint you into a corner and you have very few options left.

Scott Fawell is familiar with the tactics federal prosecutors will use when they want you to testify against a big fish. Fawell was the former Chief of Staff for George Ryan when he was the Illinois Secretary of State and he also ran Ryan’s campaign for Governor.

FAWELL: Their game is the ends justify the means. The pressure, the continual indictments. You know they talk to your attorney and let them know, hey, something else is coming, sure he doesn’t want to cooperate? I mean the message is loud and clear.

When Fawell was indicted, he went to trial and lost and went to prison. He didn’t testify against Ryan so prosecutors brought another case against him. He says that didn’t bother him but then they brought charges against his fiance, Andrea Coutretsis.

FAWELL: Andrea, there’s no doubt in my mind, Andrea’s never indicted if she’s not with me.

Fawell says prosecutors used his fiance to make him talk.

FAWELL: Even if you agree, okay, let them indict Fawell a second time to keep pressure, is it right for them to indict Andrea? Once? Twice? Just to keep pressure on me to testify? I mean she’s somewhat an innocent bystander in this game used as a pawn to keep pressure on me? That’s not the American way.

Fawell says there’s a line, a subtle line, but a line, that prosecutors cross. He says it’s one thing to charge someone with a crime and convict them and then offer them a lighter sentence if they’ll cooperate in an investigation. But it’s another thing to charge someone with a crime, not because you’re interested in the crime, but just so they’ll do what you want. Fawell eventually cooperated to keep Coutretsis out of jail. He also got a break out of the deal. His testimony was key to George Ryan’s conviction.

FAWELL: You wanna indict Chris Kelly, you want to send him away, you know what? Do it. But this, I’ll indict him a second time, lets indict him a third time, that’s strictly for pressure. I mean, I’d be rather surprised if Rod Blagojevich is exonerated but no, they want one more piece, so let’s put some heat on Chris Kelly. It never stops.

A law enforcement source says the ability to squeeze people is important. American’s don’t want a criminal justice system that gets the little guy but leaves the mob boss or drug supplier untouchable. And it wouldn’t be practical because then crime bosses could simply pay underlings who are caught to keep quiet. As for Kelly, in addition to his criminal cases, he was also under pressure from a penchant for high-stakes gambling, financial difficulties and police say, a failing marriage. Police hope to learn more about his death today by interviewing his 30-year-old girlfriend.

The Latest