Published February 23, 2011
CHICAGO – Federal prosecutors on Wednesday asked a judge for permission to dismiss racketeering charges against ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge James Zagel the accusations contained in the charges are duplicated in other counts. 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.
The 54-year-old Blagojevich faces an April 20 retrial on charges he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. He's also accused of trying to shake down donors for campaign cash. At his first trial, jurors deadlocked on all but one count of lying to the FBI.
In recent weeks, lawyers for Blagojevich have filed motions seeking to have several corruption charges thrown out based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that limited the scope of an anti-fraud law used by prosecutors nationwide to convict politicians.