Key potential Blago witness found dead

Nothing so obvious and vulgar as "cement galoshes." These days, it's "aspirin overdoses."

Mark Konkol, Natasha Korecki, and Art Golab of the Sun Times report:

The man federal prosecutors pressured to cooperate in the corruption probe of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich died of an apparent aspirin overdose on Saturday, law enforcement sources said.

Christopher Kelly, 51, of Burr Ridge, was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital at 10:46 a.m. An autopsy is scheduled for today, a Cook County Medical Examiner's Office spokeswoman said.

Kelly was Blagojevich's "go-to guy" who once was the mastermind of the ex-governor's lucrative campaign fund.

Kelly's death comes just four days after he pleaded guilty to a scheme involving $8.5 million in fraud at O'Hare Airport. It was the second conviction this year -- he still faced trial along with the ex-governor, in June. Kelly had been indicted three times since 2007 but refused to become a cooperating witness. When he pleaded guilty to the O'Hare scheme Tuesday, Kelly spoke of feeling intense pressure by prosecutors to abandon his loyalty to Blagojevich and cooperate with the feds.

Chicago police are investigating Kelly's death. A source familiar with the investigation told the Chicago Sun-Times that Kelly, who is married, called a woman identified as his "girlfriend" and told her that he took some pills and was going to kill himself.

In truth, the circumstances would seem to point to suicide. But it is a convenient one for Rod Blagojevich who would probably have had to face his former crony in court as the prosecution's chief witness against him. The prospect of extended jail time will do that, as Kelly faced spending the rest of his life in prison.

Blago should still be worried. There are plenty of other witnesses that prosecutor Fitzgerald can turn in order to make an even stronger case against him. It is still unlikely the ex-governor will be able to wriggle off the hook and escape his just reward - a little extended jail time of his own.

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