Illinois governor freed on recognizance following arrest

CHICAGO, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) — Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were released on their own recognizance at a federal court hearing on Tuesday afternoon.

According to local press reports, after being escorted to the defense table, Blagojevich smirked and shook his head as he read documents given to him by his attorney.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan said the purpose of the hearing was to explain the charges against the men and make sure they understood their rights. Assistant U.S. Atty. Red Schar then read into the record the two counts detailed in the criminal complaint.

The two were accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy. The governor was accused of selling or trading the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for his wife and himself.

Court sources said if convicted, Blagojevich and Harris could face up to 10 years in prison.

The magistrate agreed to release the men on a 4,500 U.S. dollars recognizance bond.

The governor was then driven back to his Chicago home and arrived there about 2:30 p.m. He went into his home through a back entrance.

Blagojevich, who turns 52 on Wednesday, is in his second four-year term as Illinois governor. His term ends January 2011.

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