Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was reindicted on corruption charges by a federal grand jury.
According to Reuters, prosecutors reindicted Blagojevich because the constitutionality of the law underpinning some of Blagojevich's original charges -- honest services fraud -- has been challenged and is currently the subject of U.S. Supreme Court review in another case.
Apparently, prosecutors do not want to wait around to see if the honest services fraud statute holds up.
In the case of Alaskan legislator Bruce Weyhrauch, the Supreme Court may declare the "honest services" law underpinning some of Blagojevich's previous charges unconstitutional.
So, what is honest services fraud?
In general, the law against honest services fraud makes it a crime for public officials to deprive the public or the government of the right to have public officials perform their duties honestly.
The honest services statute makes up a portion of a number of the charges against Blagojevich.
As previously discussed, Blagojevich was removed from office after an alleged attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama and other alleged efforts to leverage the powers of his office.
Although Blagojevich was indicted last April, the new 24 count indictment is based on the same criminal conduct but does not allege any new wrongdoing or rely on honest services fraud.
In December, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Alaskan legislator Bruce Weyhrauch. Justices questioned the validity of the ban on "honest services fraud," asking whether it was too vague.
In their review, justices considered whether employees who leave work early to go to a ballgame or read the Daily Racing Form at their desks might be prosecuted.
Legal analysts say prosecutors would have a more difficult job and require more solid evidence of wrongdoing if the law is declared unconstitutional.
Prosecutors are hoping that the upcoming decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on honest services fraud does not delay Blagojevich trial, which is scheduled to start in June.
- Blagojevich re-indicted on corruption charges (Chicagobreakingnews.com)
- Government fact sheet on the Blagojevich case (Chicago Tribune)
- Blagojevich Lawyers Will Recast Strategy After Government Adds Charges (Law.com)
- Criminal Law Overview (provided by Samuel J. Muldavin)
- Classifications of Crimes (provided by Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC)