BY SARAH OSTMAN
John Harris, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's onetime chief of staff, pleaded guilty in federal court today on charges that he helped Blagojevich in his attempts to sell Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat.
It was the second time Harris had entered a guilty plea for the same conduct.
Today's plea was a technicality.
Harris, 48, who lives on the city's North Side, had initially been charged with honest services fraud, but with the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court may throw out that law this summer, the prosecution adjusted its charges to conspiracy to commit bribery. The charges say Harris discussed how Blagojevich could personally benefit from appointing someone to Obama's vacant seat in 2008.
As part of his plea deal, Harris faces up to 35 months in prison. But Harris' attorney, Terry Ekl, said he will argue for far less, given Harris' cooperation and upcoming testimony at Blagojevich's June 3 trial.
"I believe John Harris will be an extraordinarily effective witness for the government," Ekl said after court today. "John Harris is a tremendous person and I believe he is articulate, and he will be very truthful and he will be an outstanding witness at trial."
Harris was Blagojevich's chief of staff at the time that FBI agents arrested the two in December 2008.
"I think it's very interesting the two diferent paths the governor and John Harris have gone down since their arrests," Ekl said.
Harris is now working as an apprentice electrician to support his wife and three children, Ekl said.
"And obviously you've seen what the former governor has done, the way he's conducted himself," Ekl said. "So I think it's quite different."