Blago brother asks dismissal of corruption charges

 
Posted1/8/2010 12:01 AM

The controversial federal law against so-called honest services fraud is so vague that corruption charges against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother should be dismissed, a defense attorney said Thursday.

Attorney Michael Ettinger asked a federal judge to dismiss the two mail fraud charges against Robert Blagojevich, saying the law is so "vague and expansive that only the prosecution can define what conduct it prohibits."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The law, which is being weighed in three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, bars officials and business executives from depriving the government or companies that employ them of their "intangible right to honest services."

It is one part of the federal mail fraud statute.

In court papers, Ettinger told U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel that efforts to define what that means are "a multitude of vague and inconsistent standards for the facially meaningless phrase that Congress plucked out of the caselaw."

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, Randall Samborn, said he would have no comment on Ettinger's request to dismiss the charges.

Both Blagojevich brothers are charged with, among other things, scheming to trade or sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and improprieties in raising money for the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund.

The Supreme Court refused to review the 2006 conviction of Robert Sorich, a former aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley, on honest services fraud charges in connection with alleged illegal hiring practices at City Hall.

But Ettinger quoted extensively from an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia disagreeing with that refusal and saying the Sorich case should have been reviewed. Among the three cases under review by the high court is the July 2007 conviction of imprisoned newspaper baron Conrad M. Black for allegedly defrauding shareholders in his Hollinger International media empire.