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Chicago Journalism At Its Best: Sun Times on Chris Kelly

Pat Hickey 16 September 2009 No Comment

I never met Christopher Kelly, or anyone close to the Blagojevich Administration.  I read the fine and sober account of this young man’s death by Mark Konkol, Natasha Korecki and Art Golab in the Chicago Sun Times only Sunday morning before 8:30 Mass. This was a very respectful and considerate report of the sad death of this once powerful man by three professionals. I offered that morning’s Mass to the Kelly Family.   The theme of Sunday’s gospel from Mark and the reading – especially the Epistle of James was Faith and Good Works.  For Catholics, Faith requires a sign by the each of us to actively do Good works.  Christopher Kelly died and the trio of Chicago Sun Times writers did a splendid job telling the reader what happened. That was a very Good Work..

“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.” – Chicago Sun Times 9/12/2009

Chris Kelly died and how that came about will be subject to vast speculation.  People will gamble with those facts just as the centurions tossed the bones for the cloak of Christ while he bled out on the Cross.  That is the Gaming industry – chancing something of value for rewards we do not deserve.   Three out of one hundred people in Illinois know it as well.

Chris Kelly was once the gaming policy point man for the hapless and rudderless Blagojevich Governorship that brought Illinois to fiscal calamity and endless mockery throughout the nation.  Former Illinois Governor George Ryan waits out the end of his time  behind bars in Terra Haute Federal Prison, yet I never once perceived George Ryan to be an intrinsically larcenous man, much less the wildly loose cannon madcap, that is Rod Blagojevich.  The man close to George Ryan’s sad story, Scott Fawell, always seemed to have the same qualities of power buffoonery as Rod Blagojevich.  I believe that Scott Fawell very much would have fit in to the Blagojevich Administration, but the Federal Prosecutor had other plans for this public record barbequing big-shot and his paramour.  Chris Kelly was no less powerful than Scott Fawell and had an equal access to his wacky boss’s ears and inclinations.

Chris Kelly had power to go along with his own personal demons.  That seemed to be a lethally tragic concoction. It seems that his power was energized by the gambling demon.  The fuel to his personal misery must have been awesome.  Peter Rosenberry of Southern Illinois University News reported in 2004 that “Statistics show that 3 percent of the country’s population are pathological, or problem gamblers – – a sharp rise from one percent nationally just 20 years ago.” Given that three out of 100 Illinoisans are considered problem, or even pathological gamblers, the toll on families, business, civic life and government is horrific.

Gaming is a policy driven adjunct of Illinois Government.  It is here and it will become a greater part of all of our lives as a stop-gap measure to shore up budgetary holes and toss cash at immediate problems.   The oafish Blagojevich has gone back on to the television airwaves to make the most of the death of his great friend, adviser, policy pointy man and fellow defendant. Here is what NBC’s Steve Rhodes reports on Monday Sept. 14th:” The ever so classy Rod Blagojevich  didn’t even wait for Chris Kelly’s body to go cold before exploiting for his own PR-driven legal defense the death his former best friend and partner in political crime.

“Chris Kelly took his life because of the pressure he was under,” Blagojevich said on his WLS-AM radio show on Sunday. “My friend Chris Kelly’s death will not be in vain.”

But Kelly did not die a hero. He died a serial felon.

Kelly had just pleaded guilty to an $ 8.5 M kickback scheme involving contracts at O’Hare airport.  . . .   He was looking at nearly eight years in prison (to start this week), and that was before going to trial in the wide-ranging political corruption case against Blagojevich, in which he was also indicted.

I caught Blagojevich on Fox and Friends this morning saying exactly the same thing.  Chris Kelly had panoply of problems not least among them was the gambling Demon.  It seems that Blagojevich parlayed that personal demon rooted in his great friend Chris Kelly by making the man his gamily policy point man.

Power, arrogance, access to cash and credit, combined with the compulsion to gamble, guilt and self loathing and  is the lethal fuel to despair and it may be this man’s death.

Over the next few days, Chris Kelly’s life will become a specimen, a public exhibit and possibly a text for the prosecution of Rod Blagojevich.  However, Blagojevich is no more responsible for the death of Christopher Kelly, I believe, than George Ryan was guilty of the deaths of the Willis babies.    Chris Kelly was a once powerful man who gambled unchecked and used whatever means, policy, or access to cash in order to chase his losses over the cliff of despair.  I know Christopher Kelly’s Demon and so do three out of one hundred Illinoisans and that number is growing.  Three out of one hundred Illinois citizens know Chris Kelly’s Demon and some of us try to walk away from the bastard compulsion. All day Sunday, more details surfaced and continue to do so.

The Chicago Sun Times team of Konkol, Korecki and Golab gave the sad man’s death a modicum of grace and dignity.  Due to that, Chris Kelly’s sad death reminds us all of our choices in life and the forces that can sweep human dignity away from us.  The Chicago Sun Times writers granted the Kelly family some dignity in making its report a cold and sober report free of analysis and speculation.  There are enough people more than willing to do just that.   Today this team continued to offer cold presentation of facts. The Good work continues.

Pat Hickey is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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