John F. Harris (political aide)

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John F. Harris
Chief of Staff for Illinois Governor
In office
2005 – December 12, 2008 (resignation) [1]
Governor Rod Blagojevich
Budget Director for Mayor of Chicago
In office
Leader Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley
Judge Advocate for U.S. Army
In office
Personal details
Born (1962-02-17) February 17, 1962 (age 56)[2]
Chicago, Illinois
Political party Democratic
Residence Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater

Northwestern University

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

John F. Harris (born 1962) is the former Chief of Staff to the Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. He resigned in December 2008 after being charged, along with Blagojevich, with wire fraud .On March 28, 2012 Harris was sentenced by Judge James B. Zagel. In contrast to the 14-year sentence Judge Zagel previously handed down to former Governor Blagojevich, Harris was sentenced to a period of 10 days incarceration, two years supervised release and a $1000 fine. In imposing the unusually lenient sentence, Judge Zagel noted that the former Governor had worn down his staff and demonstrated signs of "mental instability." [3] Judge Zagel observed that other than leaving the administration earlier if he were in Harris' shoes, he might have acted the same way.[4] The Judge also acknowledged an unusual number of character reference letters in support of Harris that had been received from prominent city and state political and business figures.[5]


Harris graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1984. He attended Loyola University Chicago School of Law and graduated in 1987.

From 1984 to 1992, Harris served as an intelligence officer and judge advocate general in the United States Army. He resigned his commission in 1992 and subsequently joined the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, where he served in many senior management positions and ultimately as budget director from 1996 to 2005. Among his many accomplishments, Harris negotiated and launched the multi-billion dollar O'Hare International Airport modernization program and led the City's successful transaction to sell the Chicago Skyway for $1.8b to the private capital joint venture team of Cintra/MacQuarie. In 2005, Harris joined the administration of the Governor of Illinois as Chief-of-Staff, Rod Blagojevich.[6]

Involvement with Rod Blagojevich[edit]

On December 9, 2008, Harris and his boss Governor Rod Blagojevich were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as solicitation of bribery.[7] Harris resigned days later.[8] Harris would enter a guilty plea soon after his arrest and was granted a deal after he agreed to testify against Blagojevich.[9]

In a subsequent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit regarding the convictions of former Governor Blagojevich,[10] the court reversed a conviction for the former governor based on the wire fraud count which had been the sole basis of Harris' guilty plea.The court noted that the practice of "logrolling" for political purposes, including the trading of favors like jobs, was not criminal activity. This has led legal and political commentators to speculate that Harris may have plead guilty to conduct which was not criminal at all.[11] However, it is unclear if Harris is left with any legal remedy to clear himself.

Notes and references[edit]