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Blagojevich lawyers want US attorney off case

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[January 09, 2009]  CHICAGO (AP) -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich's defense attorneys urged a federal judge Thursday to remove Chicago's top federal prosecutor and all of his assistants from the fraud and bribery case against the governor.

Chief defense counsel Edward Genson said in a motion that the Dec. 9 news conference U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald held in announcing the charges was so filled with prejudicial publicity that the prosecutor should bow out.

Federal prosecutors immediately responded that the legal maneuver was "meritless."

A legislative committee on Thursday unanimously recommended that the House impeach Blagojevich.

Genson charged in the motion that Fitzgerald violated the rules with pretrial publicity at the news conference announcing the charges against Blagojevich and his former chief of staff John Harris.

Blagojevich, 52, is charged among other things with plotting to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the election of Barack Obama as president.

Blagojevich's legal team waived his right to a preliminary hearing at which he could have challenged the criminal complaint that lays out the charges against him. The hearing had been set for Jan. 14.

Blagojevich had the legal right to try to get the charges thrown out at such a hearing. But even if he had, prosecutors could still have tried to obtain an indictment against him from a federal grand jury -- something they still must do before they can bring him to trial.

For that reason, waiving preliminary hearings is a common practice.

[Associated Press; By MIKE ROBINSON]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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