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Federal judge declines to rule on Blagojevich 'cancel trial' request

A federal judge on Monday declined to formally rule on the request by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive] to cancel his retrial [JURIST report], claiming that the motion was neither serious, nor did it raise a legal question. Earlier this month, Blagojevich's lawyers submitted a motion [text] to cancel the ex-governor's retrial and sentence him only on the single charge on which he was originally convicted. Blagojevich was found guilty [JURIST report] last year of making false statements to the FBI, but the jury remained deadlocked on 23 additional charges. His attorneys, who had worked without pay, argued that a retrial was an economic hardship and an unnecessary drain on taxpayer funds. Beyond suggesting that the request was made primarily to arouse public attention, the judge clarified the motion was improperly presented and, therefore, could not be ruled upon. Blagojevich's defense team was granted additional time to file a proper motion, even though the court predicts the issue will dissipate with time. If convicted of making false statements to the FBI, Blagojevich faces a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Last month, a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] granted federal prosecutors' motion to dismiss three charges [JURIST report] against Blagojevich in an apparent effort to simply their case before the April 20 retrial. In Blagojevich's first trial, the jury deliberated for 14 days after the 11-week trial but was unable to reach a consensus on all but one of the charges. In September, lawyers for Blagojevich asked the judge to throw out the sole conviction, stating that the government failed to meet its required burden of proof, but the judge refused [JURIST reports]. In January 2009, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office [JURIST report].

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