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Blagojevich to Face Revised Charges

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Federal prosecutors plan to revise their indictment against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Chicago Tribune reports, now that the Supreme Court is reviewing one of the laws used to press charges against the allegedly corrupt governor.

Blagojevich is scheduled to stand trial in June 2010 on federal corruption charges for allegedly planning to sell or trade President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. He has pleaded not guilty.

However, prosecutors reportedly announced in a Monday court filing that they are revising the charges, so that the case will not be complicated by a Supreme Court decision regarding the "honest services" fraud law. The high court is scheduled to hear three challenges to the law, which criminalizes activity that deprives the public or the government of the right to have public officials perform their duties honestly.

The "honest services" law was used to bring a number of charges against Blagojevich, and it has been central to a number of public corruption cases. It was used, for instance, to prosecute former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Illinois governor George Ryan and some Enron executives.

Prosecutors reportedly said that the allegations against Blagojevich would essentially remain the same in the revised indictment.

"At this time, it is anticipated that any new charges would be based on the underlying conduct that currently encompasses the pending charges," Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar wrote in the court filing, the Tribune reported.

Critics of the honest services law say it is used too broadly and inconsistently.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wanted a review of the law, the Washington Post reports, writing it "invites abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors in pursuit of local officials, state legislators and corporate C.E.O.'s who engage in any manner of unappealing or ethically questionable conduct."

Meanwhile, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a brief (PDF) to the Supreme Court calling the law "an indispensable weapon in the prosecutorial arsenal for fighting government corruption" since it offers "a much easier evidentiary burden" than bribery law.

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