Prosecutors Move To Drop Some Charges vs. Blagojevich
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UPDATED 02/23/11 2:22 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Federal prosecutors are moving for the dismissal of some charges against deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Blagojevich appeared in court Wednesday. Blagojevich’s attorneys are also seeking to get several charges dropped.
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At the status hearing, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge James Zagel they wanted to dismiss three racketeering and wire fraud charges because the allegations involved in those counts are duplicated in other charges.
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, the move is an attempt to simplify the government’s case after jurors in Blagojevich’s first trial said the two dozen counts were confusing.
The charges prosecutors are moving to dismiss are count one, two and four in the original indictment — racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud.
The surprise motion to dismiss the three charges came in the final minutes of a 45-minute status hearing.
“It will make it a little less complicated,” prosecutor Reid Schar told the judge about a scaled down indictment.
The racketeering charge epitomized what could be, for a non-lawyer, mind-numbing legal complexities — with its more than 20 sub-points and multiple acts jurors had to consider before rendering a verdict.
In his brief statement, Schar also said some of the charges were redundant. That could mean many of the illegal acts cited under the racketeering count could arise in any remaining charges, which include several wire fraud counts, bribery and attempted extortion.
After the initial trial that ended largely deadlocked last summer, some jurors complained about the complexity of the indictment against Blagojevich.
Defense attorneys heralded the moves by prosecutors.
“I think it shows that they think Blagojevich is innocent of those charges. Or why would they dismiss them?” Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said.
Zagel did not immediately rule on the motion.
The status hearing came two months before the ex-governor’s retrial is set to start.
In a motion filed Tuesday, Blagojevich’s defense team asked Zagel to dismiss 11 of the 23 corruption counts he is facing when he is tried for a second time in April.
The counts defense attorneys want tossed out are tied to the so-called “honest services” statute that the Supreme Court ruled on last summer. Justices ruled that, if there’s no bribe or kickback, “honest services fraud” is too vague to be a crime.
Blagojevich’s attorneys also tried to have the 11 counts tied to “honest services” thrown out at the start of his trial last summer, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, but Zagel rejected the request.
Among the charges against Blagojevich is that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat.
The defense has filed five motions leading up to the hearing.
One asks Zagel to bar prosecutors from playing any FBI wiretap recordings to jurors on the grounds that evidence at the heart of the government’s case is unreliable.
But another asks Zagel to lift a seal on those tapes. Blagojevich doesn’t want jurors to hear them but still wants the right to release them publicly.
Blagojevich’s first trial ended last summer with jurors deadlocked on all but one of 24 counts against him. Blagojevich was convicted of lying to the FBI and prosecutors are pressing on with 23 other counts against him.
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