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Federal appeals court rejects Blagojevich bid to delay trial

The US court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Tuesday rejected [order text] a motion by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive] to postpone his trial until the US Supreme Court [official website] issues its decision on whether the federal honest services fraud statute [18 USC s. 1346 text] is constitutional. Blagojevich, who has been charged with federal honest services fraud, along with racketeering, attempted extortion, bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, and conspiracy to commit extortion, said that it would be unfair to proceed with the trial if the Supreme Court does declare the federal honest services fraud law unconstitutional. The court rejected the argument, finding:

If the charges for deprivation of honest services had been the only pending counts, the denial of the request to continue the trial pending the Supreme Court's resolution of the cases pending before it might give us pause. However, the defendants face additional charges. In addition, the defendants cannot demonstrate that the challenged orders are effectively unreviewable at the end of the case.
Blagojevich's lawyer said that they are considering an appeal [AP report] to the Supreme Court, while an attorney for his brother and co-defendant Robert Blagojevich said they will appeal. The Supreme Court heard arguments [JURIST report] in March on whether the federal honest services fraud statute is unconstitutionally vague, and a decision is expected by June. The trial is set to begin June 3.

Last month, the prosecution was ordered [JURIST report] to release a 91-page government proffer outlining evidence in its case against Blagojevich. According to the proffer, Blagojevich tried to sell the senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, made appointments based on anticipated campaign contributions, and took kickbacks from a number of companies. In March, Blagojevich pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to eight amended corruption charges. In January 2009, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously [JURIST report] to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office. Blagojevich is the first Illinois governor to be impeached and removed from office. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were initially arrested [JURIST report] in December 2008 on allegations that they had conspired to sell the Senate seat left vacant by Obama.

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