One of the biggest players in Rod Blagojevich's criminal saga pleaded guilty in federal court today and agreed to turn himself in to jail by next week.
Christopher Kelly, a longtime friend, adviser and fund-raiser to the ex-governor, pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme involving contracts at O'Hare Airport and his roofing company, BCI Commercial Roofing, Inc.
By doing so, he evades a trial that was scheduled to begin tomorrow.
Kelly told the judge he pleaded guilty after enduring "a great deal of pressure."
"I'm doing it knowing the ramifications of my actions," said Kelly, whose plea deal calls for a 57-month sentence, almost five years, to run after he serves three years in a separate tax fraud case.
Kelly will voluntarily surrender to the federal lock-up on Sept. 18. He will also pay a $450,000 in forfeiture.
There was no talk of Kelly cooperating against Blagojevich, despite the government taking the rare move and charging Kelly three times in two years.
Kelly still faces trial on racketeering and extortion charges with the former governor next June.
Wearing a blue dress shirt in court, Kelly stood with his hands folded before him and, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar read the charges aloud in court, Kelly looked up at the ceiling or down at the floor.
Upon swearing in Kelly, U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle asked the Burr Ridge man to speak up.
"Is there a reason why you're whispering?" Norgle asked.
Schar said as part of the kickback scheme, Kelly used criminally-derived profits to pay off personal debts, including to convicted businessman Tony Rezko, as well as gambling debts.
"Is that what happened and is that what you did?" Norgle asked.
"Yes," Kelly replied.
Kelly still faces trial on charges with the ex-governor -- his third indictment. Kelly pleaded guilty in a separate tax scheme earlier this year.
The plea deal was finalized at the last minute, with Kelly initialing portions of it outside the courtroom minutes before court. At one point, Norgle recessed because Kelly said he hadn't read the whole document.
Kelly and his lawyer, Michael Monico, left the courthouse without comment.