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New law, new approach to scandal

U.S. Supreme Court building

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: When I say Jeff Skilling, you say Enron scandal. When I say Jack Abramoff, you say political bribery. Both men are currently in federal prison. You know what else they have in common? A Supreme Court hearing later today could give both men new trials. Brett Neely explains.


Brett Neely: Both men were convicted under the honest services statute. The 22-year-old law was first applied to government corruption cases. In the past decade, prosecutors have used it for corporate crime, too.

Randall Eliason is a former federal prosecutor. He says the statute is pretty vague.

Randall Eliason: What the law says is that it's a crime to defraud another person of their intangible right to honest services.

The Supreme Court could throw out the law and give Jeff Skilling and Jack Abramoff new trials. But it would make it harder to fight corruption, says Melanie Sloane of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Melanie Sloane: It means that prosecutors are going to have to find other ways to go after corrupt politicians, and sometimes that's pretty difficult.

The case hasn't been decided yet, but it's already having an impact. Prosecutors in the case against former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich added new charges that they hope will stick despite any Supreme Court decision on Skilling.

In Washington, I'm Brett Neely for Marketplace.

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