No perjury charge against US Sen. Burris-prosecutor

CHICAGO, June 19 Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:18pm EDT

CHICAGO, June 19 (Reuters) - An Illinois prosecutor investigating the appointment of Roland Burris to President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat said on Friday there was insufficient evidence to charge Burris with perjury.

Some of Burris' answers to questions posed by an Illinois legislative committee in January were vague, but he did not lie about his discussions with then-Governor Rod Blagojevich's aides concerning his appointment, Sangamon County Prosecutor John Schmidt said in a statement.

Blagojevich, who was impeached and ousted from office by state legislators, was indicted in April on corruption charges, including charges that he tried to sell the Senate seat.

"Some of (Burris') statements were vague, but vague statements cannot support a perjury charge," Schmidt said.

After Burris testified to the legislative committee, a requirement demanded by Senate leaders before they would agree to seat him, he amended the testimony in written form to explain that he had additional contacts with Blagojevich's brother, Rob.

An FBI tape-recording of Burris' conversation with Rob Blagojevich discussing fund-raising possibilities was released by federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's office as part of an ongoing Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

Burris and Blagojevich are both members of President Barack Obama's Democratic party.

Burris has insisted he did not offer Blagojevich anything in exchange for the seat, and has refused calls to resign. He has hinted he may campaign to be elected to the seat in 2010.

Blagojevich, who has pleaded innocent, was arrested Dec. 9 but went ahead with the appointment of the black former Illinois attorney general few weeks later against the advice of fellow Democrats.

"(The) investigation was both thorough and fair, and I am glad that the truth has prevailed," Burris said in a statement.

"This matter has now been fully investigated; I cooperated at every phase of the process, and as I have said from the beginning, I have never engaged in any pay-to-play, never perjured myself, and came to this seat in an honest and legal way."

(Additional reporting by Tom Ferraro in Washington)

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