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US prosecutors bring new charges against Illinois ex-governor Blagojevich

[JURIST] Prosecutors from the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] issued a superseding indictment [text] against former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive] Thursday. The new indictment, which does not allege additional wrongdoing but contains eight new charges [government filing text] related to racketeering, extortion, and bribery, allows prosecutors to try Blagojevich without relying on the federal honest services fraud statute [18 USC § 1346 text], which some believe the Supreme Court may soon declare unconstitutional in some contexts. Blagojavich is scheduled to be arraigned [Chicago Tribune report] next Wednesday, with his trial set to begin in June [JURIST report].

In December, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in two honest services fraud cases. At issue is whether the statute applies to a private defendant where there is no proof he intended to cause economic harm and whether the statute is applicable without showing that a plaintiff violated a separate law. In October, the Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] to determine whether ex-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling may be prosecuted under the "honest services" fraud statute absent proof that he intended to privately gain through the alleged fraud. In April, Blagojevich pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts [JURIST reports], including wire fraud, attempted extortion, racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, and making false statements. In January 2009, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously [JURIST report] to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were initially arrested [JURIST report] in December on allegations that they had conspired to sell the Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama.

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