Indicted and/or convicted pubic officials across the country – and the lawyers who prosecute and defend them – are in a holding pattern as they wait to see what the U.S. Supreme Court will do with an anti-corruption law under constitutional attack.
During oral arguments last week in the cases Black v. U.S. and Weyhrauch v. U.S., both challenging a law that criminalizes the deprivation of “honest services,” the justices hinted strongly that the law may be unconstitutionally overbroad. A third case challenging the law’s constitutionality, Skilling v. U.S., is scheduled to be argued at the Court in March.
But defense attorneys for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who faces charges under the law, embattled former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, who is being investigated and could be charged under the law, and former Bergen County, N.J., Democratic Chairman Joseph A. Ferriero who was convicted under the statute are making moves in hopes that the Court will strike down the law.
Blagojevich’s lawyers are seeking access to certain evidence – including federal investigators interviews with President Barack Obama – as they prepare for trial in the case, where prosecutors allege the former governor sought to sell the Senate seat vacated by the president. Prosecutors, meanwhile, are preparing to revise their case and re-indict for the former governor in case the Supreme Court strikes down the honest services fraud statute.
Herenton’s case took a turn yesterday when it was reported that a grand jury that was investigating allegations of corruption against him has disbanded. Lawyers for Herenton, who has not been indicted, said they too are awaiting the fate of the law before the High Court, and in the meantime Herenton is readying a run for Congress next year.
Ferriero’s attorneys as well as prosecutors have asked for his sentencing to be delayed until the Supreme Court rules.