Rod Blagojevich Trial, Day 14: US Supreme Court Ruling Limits Use of "Honest Services" Fraud Law

My preliminary reading (of the Supreme Court ruling) is it may not offer a lot of hope for you.”

— Judge James Zagel

In a much anticipated decision, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a ruling this morning that limits the use of an "honest services fraud" law, a move that could affect the charges against Rod Blagojevich.

First thing this morning, Blago's legal team reacted, asking Judge James Zagel to put the trial on hold until Monday or Tuesday so they could "digest" the decision. Zagel denied their request.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on honest services this morning could void out similar charges against Rod Blagojevich, but ultimately will change little in the trial he faces, one expert has said.
That's because prosecutors anticipated the move and in February, returning a new indictment that charged the same underlying conduct under different legal theory.
The legal maneuver helped keep the case on track for a June trial even if the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law.
"It's much ado about nothing," said defense lawyer Richard Kling. "I don't think it'll have any impact on what the jury is asked to deliberate."

Lawyers for Rod Blagojevich were quick to pounce on the U.S. Supreme Court decision this morning weakening the so-called honest-services law on which some of the charges against the former governor are based.

Aaron Goldstein, one of Blagojevich’s many lawyers, filed a motion to suspend the trial until at least next week so the defense team could digest the high court’s 114-page decision.

The Supreme Court weakened a key anticorruption law today, ruling 9-0 that the law against "honest services" fraud is too vague to constitute a crime unless a bribe or kickback was involved.

The decision is likely to have a wide impact and could affect recent convictions of public figures and corporate executives. They include former Enron chief executive Jeff Skilling and former Chicago newspaper magnate Conrad Black, both of whom had appealed to the Supreme Court. They were convicted on other charges as well, however, and those convictions still stand.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is being tried on multiple charges of corruption, including depriving the public of honest services.