31 Jan 2009

Illinois governor ousted for abuse of power

7:15 am on 31 January 2009

Rod Blagojevich has been ousted as the Governor of Illinois after being convicted of abusing his powers.

Mr Blagojevich said he was "saddened and disappointed" by the verdict but "not at all surprised" and would fight to clear his name.

He was charged with trying to sell the US Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he was elected United States president.

In a second vote, Mr Blagojevich was banned from holding public office in Illinois for life.

He was arrested in December and faces a criminal trial over bribes during his two terms.

No other Illinois governor has been impeached, let alone convicted in a Senate trial.

Mr Blagojevich has now been replaced as governor by Patrick Quinn, a fellow Democrat and the state's lieutenant governor.

Senators voted 59-0 against him after an impeachment hearing, despite his claim that he had "done nothing wrong" and there was no evidence of a crime.

After being sworn in, Mr Quinn told the senate "the ordeal is over".

He said the elected representatives had "reflected the will of the people".

"Now it's our job to call upon the people of Illinois to make the sacrifices necessary to address the serious challenges we have before us," Mr Quinn said.

After the senate hearing, Mr Blagojevich said he "obviously saddened and disappointed, but not at all surprised by what what the state senate did today".

He said he was grateful for having had the opportunity to "get up every day to fight for average, ordinary people".

Mr Blagojevich's impeachment was unprecedented in Illinois. However, he is now among four of Illinois' past eight governors to face criminal charges. His immediate predecessor is in prison.