Prosecutors to drop some charges against Blagojevich
BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporternkorecki@suntimes.com February 23, 2011 1:04PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Prosecutors in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption case signaled Wednesday a slim-down of their upcoming retrial against the former governor, moving to drop three charges, including two racketeering counts, saying they believe it will help simplify a case that jurors complained was too complicated.
Prosecutors said conduct charged in the racketeering counts is charged elsewhere, and it duplicated their efforts.
Lawyers in the case say that dropping Count One, racketeering, and Count Two, racketeering conspiracy, will help wipe out at least 30 pages of jury instructions — something jurors had complained were burdensome and confusing.
After Blagojevich’s first trial, jurors came to an impasse on 23 of 24 counts, convicting him of just one count — lying to the FBI.
There are now 20 counts remaining against Blagojevich, including that he allegedly tried to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat.
Prosecutors also said they want to drop Count Four, a wire fraud count.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar said in court that dropping the charges will help “streamline the length of the indictment,” as well as jury instructions.
Former prosecutor Patrick Collins said the government is responding to jurors. While keeping their case the same, they’ll send jurors to the jury room with straight-forward instructions on the law. There were more than 100 instructions in the first case.
Both defense lawyers and prosecutors spoke with jurors after the trial to get feedback for the April retrial.
“I see this as a clear signal,” Collins said. “Their message from the last trial was that they needed to simplify their case. They’re doing that by dismissing [former co-defendant] Robert [Blagojevich] and dismissing RICO. When a prosecutor charges RICO, there’s certain benefits to it, but it complicates the case and jury instructions.”
Prosecutors late last year dismissed charges against Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, increasing the case’s focus on Rod Blagojevich.
While Blagojevich lawyers called the potentially-dropped charges a good thing, it wasn’t a game-changer.“
“It doesn’t change much for us,” attorney Sheldon Sorosky said. “Every wrong is still there.”
Still, Sorosky said it was good news that there’s three fewer counts again the former governor.