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Blagojevich confidant has died

Christopher Kelly was to have started serving a prison term in a few days. He died of salicylate intoxication, the medical examiner's office says. Salicylates are used in pain relief medications.

September 13, 2009|Jeff Coen and Jeremy Gorner

CHICAGO — Christopher Kelly, a key figure in the federal corruption investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has died.

A onetime confidant and top fundraiser for Blagojevich, Kelly was accused of using his office to leverage campaign donations and benefits for himself and his family.

In a surprise move Tuesday, a day before his scheduled trial, the roofing business owner pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud as part of a kickback scheme to illegally obtain $8.5 million in work at O'Hare International Airport. He was facing five years in prison.

At the time of his plea, Kelly, 51, said he was under pressure from federal prosecutors to cooperate in their investigation of Blagojevich but he had refused.

Kelly had been ordered to report to federal authorities for incarceration by Friday to begin a three-year sentence in a separate case in which he had pleaded guilty to using his company's money to pay gambling debts and claimed it as a business expense.

On Saturday, the Cook County medical examiner's office confirmed that Kelly had died of salicylate intoxication. Salicylates are used in anti- inflammatory and pain relief medications. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Blagojevich released a statement Saturday offering his condolences.

"I am deeply saddened to hear that Chris has died. My heart goes out to his wife, Carmen, his three daughters, Grace, Jacqueline, and Claire, and his entire family. They are in our prayers."

Kelly's attorney, Michael Monico, declined to comment Saturday.

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jcoen@tribune.com

jgorner@tribune.com

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