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Judge Drops 3 Of 23 Counts Against Blagojevich

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Rod Blagojevich (credit: John Gress/Getty Images)

Rod Blagojevich (credit: John Gress/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A federal judge dropped two racketeering charges and a wire fraud count against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday, a day after prosecutors sought to have the charges dropped.

Blagojevich’s defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky said he had no objections to the prosecution’s request. The charges were formally dropped at a status hearing on Thursday, reducing the number of counts against Blagojevich from 23 to 20.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports

The charges that have been dismissed are count one, two and four in the original indictment — racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud.

Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Wednesday that dropping the charges would simplify their case against Blagojevich.

“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.

Blagojevich is scheduled to be retried in April, after jurors deadlocked on 23 of the original 24 counts against him at his first trial. Blagojevich was convicted of lying to the FBI.

Some of the jurors from the first trial complained the charges against Blagojevich were too complex to sort through, prompting the government to try and simplify their case.

Even subtracting the three charges, Blagojevich still would face years in prison if convicted.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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