BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
In the Matter of:
Commission No. 2012PR00026
FILED - June 6, 2012
Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Wendy J. Muchman, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 761(b), and Rule 753 complains of Respondent John Frank Harris, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 5, 1987, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute and which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770:
1. Respondent was admitted to practice law in Illinois on November 5, 1987.
2. On April 2, 2009, a superseding indictment was filed against Respondent and others, including former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich. United States of America v. John Frank Harris, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, case no. 08 CR 888-5. (A copy of the superseding indictment is attached as Exhibit 1.) Count IV of the superseding indictment charged that Respondent knowingly and intentionally participated in a scheme to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 46. On July 8, 2009, Respondent entered a plea of guilty to that Count pursuant to a plea agreement. (A copy of the plea agreement is attached as Exhibit 2.)
3. On March 26, 2010 the Administrator filed a petition for interim suspension pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 774 as a result of the fact that Respondent's sentencing and conviction were not going to be scheduled until all trials relating to Respondent's testimony were concluded. Respondent executed a waiver and consent agreeing to the suspension pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 774.
4. On April 6, 2010 this Court suspended Respondent until further order of the Court.
5. On February 4, 2010, a second superseding indictment was filed against defendants, John Harris, Rod Blagojevich and Robert Blagojevich. Count 23 of the superseding indictment charged that Respondent conspired with Rod and Robert Blagojevich to commit theft of programs receiving federal funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. §666(a)(1)(B) and 18 U.S.C.§ 371. (A copy of the second superseding is attached as Exhibit 3.)
6. On May 14, 2010 Respondent entered a plea of guilty to Count 23 of the superseding indictment and judgment of guilty was entered by the court on Count 23.
7. On May 14, 2010 Respondent entered into a plea agreement with respect to Count 23 of the superseding indictment. (A copy of the plea agreement is attached as Exhibit 4.)
8. On March 28, 2012, pursuant to Count 23 of the second superseding indictment, Judge James B. Zagel sentenced Respondent to ten days in a bureau of prisons facility and two years supervised release plus a $100 assessment charge and a $1000 fine with the lump sum payment of $1100 due immediately upon sentencing. (A certified copy of the judgment of conviction is attached as Exhibit 5.)
II. CONVICTION INFORMATION
9. Beginning in December 2005 and continuing until December 2008, Respondent was employed by the State of Illinois as the Chief of Staff to then Governor Rod Blagojevich. Count 23 charges that Respondent conspired to corruptly solicit and demand things of value from others for the benefit of Rod Blagojevich, an agent of the State of Illinois, in connection with the appointment of a United States Senator for Illinois, a state that received in excess of $10,000 federal funding in the period of time in question. Respondent engaged in numerous conversations with Blagojevich and other high ranking State government officials to devise a plan by which Blagojevich could use his power to appoint a United States Senator to obtain financial benefits for himself and his wife.
10. From October 2008 through December 9, 2008, Respondent participated with Blagojevich in regular conversations wherein discussions were had about the financial benefits that could be obtained for Blagojevich and his wife in return for the exercise of Blagojevich's duty under Illinois law to appoint a United States Senator to fill the vacancy created by the election of President Obama. (Exhibit 4, pp. 2-4) As detailed in the plea agreement, Respondent assisted Blagojevich's efforts by suggesting means by which Blagojevich could secure personal benefits for himself. (Exhibit 4, p. 4)
11. Shortly before and immediately after the November 4, 2008 election of President Obama, Blagojevich's discussions with Respondent about his appointment of a replacement Senator became more frequent and more detailed. (Exhibit 4, p.4-6) Respondent knew of Blagojevich's discussions with a small group of internal and external advisors about the issue. (Id.) Blagojevich made it clear to Respondent that Blagojevich was not focused on what was in the best interest of the People of the State of Illinois, but instead was focused on what Blagojevich could personally obtain for himself in exchange for the Senate appointment. (Id.)
12. Around the time of the November 4, 2008 election, Respondent learned that an individual identified as Senate Candidate B was interested in the Senate seat. (Id.) Blagojevich discussed with Respondent that he wanted to use Senate Candidate B's interest in the Senate seat as a way to get something for himself from President-elect Obama. (Id.) Initially Blagojevich wanted to be appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services ("HHS"). On or about November 6, 2008, Blagojevich met with an individual identified as Service Employees International Union ("SEIU") Official A who had been presented to Blagojevich and Respondent as working on behalf of President-elect Obama to fill the Senate seat. (Id.) Prior to the meeting, Respondent helped Blagojevich strategize as to how to ask SEIU Official A for the HHS position in exchange for making Senate Candidate B the Senator. (Id.) After the meeting, Blagojevich told Respondent that he had asked SEIU Official A for the HHS position in exchange for the appointment of Senate Candidate B as Senator. (Exhibit 4, p.7)
13. During the discussions with Respondent, Blagojevich expressed interest in obtaining an ambassadorship from President-elect Obama in exchange for making Senate Candidate B the Senator. (Exhibit 4. p.5) On November 5, 2008, Blagojevich told Respondent and Deputy Governor A to research the ambassadorship options for him as well as to research private foundations where Blagojevich might be able to get a high-paying position in exchange for making Senate Candidate B the Senator. (Id. p. 5) Respondent explained to Blagojevich the reasons Respondent believed that the private foundation option was preferable to the ambassadorship. (Id., pp. 5-6)
14. Respondent admits in the plea agreement that in another conversation with Blagojevich, after Blagojevich asked Respondent to develop a union based option, Respondent presented Blagojevich with an idea by which Blagojevich could become the national coordinator of an organization called "Change to Win," which was associated with a number of labor unions, including SEIU. (Exhibit 4, p.6) Respondent suggested that Blagojevich could obtain the Change to Win position through SEIU Officials A and B, in exchange for Blagojevich agreeing to appoint Senate Candidate B the Senator. (Id.) Respondent explained the benefits of this plan to Blagojevich, which Respondent stated included the President's favorable view of SEIU during his administration, keeping Blagojevich politically viable, providing Blagojevich with union support and a paid position. (Id., pp. 6-7)
15. As Respondent admits in the plea agreement, on November 7, 2008, Respondent participated in a conference call with Blagojevich and another person, Advisor A, in which the Change to Win idea was again discussed. (Exhibit 4, p. 8) Respondent explained the idea to Advisor A at Blagojevich's request. (Id.) Respondent understood during the call that in his analysis of who to name to the Senate seat, Blagojevich was interested in obtaining money for himself and maintaining his own political viability. (Id.)
16. Respondent also admits in his plea agreement that after Senate Candidate B obtained a position with the White House, Blagojevich pressed Respondent to talk to an individual identified as Senate Candidate D about benefits to Blagojevich in exchange for the appointment to the seat which included Blagojevich's receipt of Candidate D's remaining campaign funds in exchange for the Senate seat. (Exhibit. 4, p.9) On November 12, 2008, Respondent met with Senate Candidate D. (Id., p.10) Respondent discussed with Candidate D, that individual's plans for his campaign funds that could not be converted to personal use. (Id., p. 10)
17. Respondent admits in the plea agreement that, in another conversation on December 4, 2008, Blagojevich told Respondent that through a third party, Senate Candidate A had offered to raise $1.5 million in campaign funds for Blagojevich in exchange for the Senate appointment. (Id., p.10) Although Respondent told Blagojevich that the offer to raise funds should not factor into his decision, it was clear to Respondent that a large part of Blagojevich's motivation for appointing Senate Candidate A to the Senate was the offer of campaign funds. Blagojevich had previously dismissed Senate Candidate A as a potential appointee, and Respondent believed that Blagojevich had changed course was considering Senate Candidate A because of the offer of money. (Id., pp. 10-11)
18. As a result of the conduct set forth above that occurred prior to January 1, 2010, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:
knowingly assisting another to violate the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(2) of Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990);
committing a criminal act that reflects adversely upon the lawyer's honesty and fitness as a lawyer by conspiracy to commit theft of federal funds in violation of 18 USC §666(a)(1)(B) and 371 in violation of Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(a)(3) (1990);
conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(a)(4) (1990);
conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute.
WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.
Wendy J. Muchman