Federal prosecutors need more time to interview witnesses who have come forward since the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to court documents filed Wednesday in Chicago.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald filed a motion asking for an additional three months to return an indictment against Blagojevich and former Blagojevich aide John Harris. In the motion, Fitzgerald said the five-year investigation also could implicate others.
"This investigation was initiated in approximately 2003 and involves multiple potential defendants," the motion states.
Fitzgerald said in the motion that prosecutors have thousands of conversations to review that were intercepted by government wiretaps between late October and early December.
He also said "multiple" witnesses have come forward in recent weeks to discuss their knowledge of alleged criminal activity involving Blagojevich, and prosecutors are using a number of confidential witnesses.
Fitzgerald said prosecutors' work has been slowed by the grand jury's two-week holiday surrounding Christmas and New Year's Day.
The motion also said there are other factors — but those were included in a separate, sealed attachment.
Blagojevich, 52, has been under pressure to resign since he was arrested on federal solicitation of bribery and conspiracy charges. The governor has vigorously denied the allegations and has refused to resign from office.
"I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," Blagojevich said at a news conference earlier this month. "I will fight until I take my last breath."
On Tuesday, Blagojevich defied fellow Democrats by announcing the appointment of former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Senate Democrats have said they won't seat anyone nominated by Blagojevich.
Fitzgerald has said Blagojevich of embarked on a "political corruption crime spree," participating in a number of schemes to trade political favors for financial and political gain. Fitzgerald said Blagojevich wanted cash, campaign contributions, a Cabinet post or an ambassadorship in exchange for an appointment to the Senate.
The Illinois Supreme Court has rejected a bid by the state attorney general's office to remove Blagojevich from office, but a committee in the Illinois House of Representatives is considering whether to recommend impeachment.
Blagojevich and Harris are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud; they are also charged with solicitation of bribery in connection with a deal involving the Illinois Finance Authority.
Blagojevich and Harris are accused of trying to pressure the Tribune Co. to fire several members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board in exchange for state assistance in the purchase of Wrigley Field. The Tribune Co. owns Wrigley Field and was attempting to negotiate the sale of the historic Chicago ballpark to the Illinois Finance Authority.
Harris has since resigned his position with Blagojevich.