Prosecutor declines to charge Burris with perjury

An Illinois prosecutor said Friday there is not enough evidence to bring perjury charges against Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) for his testimony in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment proceedings.

State lawmakers demanded an investigation after learning that Burris had failed to disclose under oath that Blagojevich’s brother asked him for a campaign contribution. State Republicans asked the Sangamon County prosecutor’s office to review Burris’s testimony before a state House committee.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt closed the case on Friday, announcing the decision in a letter to Illinois state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D).

Schmidt explained the decision in the letter:

“When Representative Durkin asked Senator Burris if he spoke to members of the Governor’s staff or family members regarding his interest in the senate seat, Burris responded, ‘I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes,’” Schmidt wrote, making reference to state Rep. James Durkin, a Republican on the impeachment committee.  

“This is a truthful answer.  While Senator Burris failed to mention the phone conversations with Rob Blagojevich or John Harris, he did say he spoke to friends about his interest,” Schmidt wrote, making reference to Blagojevich’s brother and chief of staff.

“The Illinois Supreme Court has consistently held the burden is on the questioner to pin the witness down as to the specific object of the questioner’s inquiry.”

Burris is still under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. That probe may end soon in light of the state attorney’s finding.